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Solaris by Stanisław Lem
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Solaris (1961)

by Stanisław Lem

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,0011111,483 (3.88)1 / 245
When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface he is forced to confront a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others suffer from the same affliction and speculation rises among scientists that the Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates incarnate memories, but its purpose in doing so remains a mystery . . . Solaris raises a question that has been at the heart of human experience and literature for centuries: can we truly understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?… (more)
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    TMrozewski: Both deal with the Otherness of extraterrestrial life.
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English (90)  Spanish (5)  Italian (4)  German (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Russian (1)  Portuguese (1)  Slovak (1)  Catalan (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Like hardly any redeeming qualities in this book? Love no answers and long tangents seemingly unrelated to the book? Then you'd love book. Me...not so much. ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
In his wonderful novel Oblomov, Ivan Goncharov makes his feelings about large bodies of water perfectly clear. Never mind the sea! Its very silence and immobility arouses no gratifying emotion deep down. In the barely perceptible vacillation of the watery mass, man constantly seeks the same boundless, albeit slumbering, force which sometimes mocks his proud will so venomously and deeply buries his courageous intentions and his every effort and labor. I had no beef with this passage when I first read it, as I, too, am not a big fan of the sea. I just didn't quite get why Goncharov put a huge rant from his own perspective about the sea at the start of Chapter 9 in a book where the protagonist mostly just hangs out in his bedroom. Little did I know that Goncharov was projecting his thoughts far into the future, all the way to a Polish science fiction novel that would be written just over a century later.

You see, Stanislaw Lem undoubtedly harbored "courageous intentions" and put his "every effort and labor" into Solaris, but he directed his focus down a strange path. He decided to make the most pivotal character in the novel be an ocean. It's a potentially sentient ocean, and it's an ocean that can do a lot of neat things that other oceans can't do, but it is an ocean nonetheless. Now, like any decent author would know, Lem understood that the most pivotal character in his novel had to be compelling, otherwise the reader would quickly lose interest. This task was made quite difficult by his character's oceanic qualities, so he devised a solution. He would have his human protagonist, Kris Kelvin, investigate the ocean in the library of his base, so he could share with the reader all the interesting history and other important information related to said ocean. Never mind that Kris has read these books before and knows everything that's in almost all of them. He needs to read them anyway.

So, did it work? Of course not. A book about a guy reading textbooks sucks. Read this: It's common knowledge that any equation can be expressed in the figural language of higher geometry, and a solid can be constructed that is its equivalent. In this (kill me) understanding, a symmetriad is a relative of Lobachevsky's cones and Riemann's (kill me) negative curvatures, but a very distant relative, due to its unimaginable complexity. Occupying (kill me I want to die) an area of several cubic miles, it constitutes the solution to an entire mathematical system; this solution (why haven't you killed me yet), furthermore, is fourth-dimensional, since certain essential coefficients in the equation are also expressed in time, that is to say KILL ME PLEASE GOD KILL ME! I might have added a few thoughts of my own there, but the rest of that text is real, and it's almost all like that.

What we're left with is a book full of compelling people that all find an ocean very interesting, and rather than use the humans' desire to contact the ocean as some sort of Mcguffin for the deeply personal story of Kris and the companion he rediscovers while on base, Lem chooses to keep steering focus back onto the stupid ocean.

This ocean, as different as it may be from any ocean on Earth, holds true to Goncharov's image of the sea. While Kris may be able to visually recognize the specific vacillations of Solaris' ocean, he still perceives very little meaning. And while Lem may seek to bring the boundless force of the ocean to his novel, the book leaves me barren of any gratifying emotion. Never mind the sea indeed. ( )
  bgramman | May 9, 2020 |
Maciej Cegłowski of Pinboard and Idle Words has, in a few talks, mentioned the poor quality of English sci-fi versus that of Eastern Europe. Principally the Strugatsky brothers and Lem. He argues that the only good dystopian sci-fi comes from these and the Eastern Europeans, as they had a closer glimpse of the dystopia we could be heading towards. Solaris was my first dip into the ouvre and it was a solid start. My imagination of it coloured it as a 70s sci-fi movie, heavy on atmosphere and happy to build oppression through pacing. And it turns out there is such a movie, which I'll have to add to my playlist.
  thenumeraltwo | Feb 11, 2020 |
The premise is that a scientist is sent to Solaris (a planet with a space station) only to discover that the 3 inhabitants which he was meant to meet have been reduced to two. Our main character, Kris Kelvin, arrives hoping to crack the enigma of the alien ocean which comprises the whole of the planet (and which is sentient). Once he arrives, strange and disturbing things start to happen such as resurrection of the dead into corporeal beings. Is the entity aware of its cruelty? Is it conducting an experiment on the scientists like the ones that it has been subjected to over the years? Have they actually gone mad?! The overarching message that Lem seems to be making is that humanity continually seeks out new worlds and beings only to impose their own values and agendas to further their reach. (Think colonialism of other cultures and peoples.) He likens it to religion and the search for redemption. (Sci-fi and philosophy go hand-in-hand more often than not as most lovers of the genre will know.) For me it's a 4/10 as I found myself putting it down and grabbing other things to read instead. ( )
  AliceaP | Jan 31, 2020 |
I was excited to read a book billed as trying to represent a truly alien encounter and the inability of people to then deal with something that isn't comprehendible by humans.

I don't know if it's just the fact that the translation is often listed as "not good", but the book overall didn't seem that good. It didn't flow very well, characters actions didn't feel well explained, and their resolutions felt almost random to me.

It was still an interesting concept in general, but left me just feeling ... meh. ( )
  Mactastik | Sep 4, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 90 (next | show all)
Hoewel "Solaris" schitterend is verfilmd, is het boek zelf niet overdreven goed. De hoofdpersoon is een psycholoog met weinig verstand van psychologie, die probeert fysische problemen op te lossen, waar hij - en met hem de schrijver - nog minder verstand van heeft. Het gegeven is veelbelovend. De planeet is bedekt met een oceaan die leeft en zichzelf en zijn zonnestelsel kan manipuleren. De onderzoekers en de oceaan proberen met elkaar in kontakt te komen. De onhandige oceaan zaait daardoor dood en verderf. De mogelijkheden om de armoedige "science" te compenseren met spannende "fiction" worden om zeep geholpen door lange pseudo-wetenschappelijke verklaringen over de fysiologie van de planeet, wat de indruk wekt dat een kort verhaal is uitgerekt tot een boek.
added by karnoefel | editNBD / Biblion
 

» Add other authors (77 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lem, StanisławAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bolzoni, E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, SteveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnston, BillTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juliani, AlessandroNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kannosto, MattiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, JoannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malm, JohanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olszewski, JanuszCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Suvin, DarkoAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swahn, Sven ChristerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zimmermann-Göllheim… IrmtraudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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At 19.00 hours, ship's time, I made my way to the launching bay.  The men around the shaft stood aside to let me pass, and I climbed down into the capsule.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Telling of humanity's encounter with an alien intelligence on the planet Solaris, the 1961 novel is a cult classic, exploring the ultimate futility of attempting to communicate with extra-terrestrial life.

When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories. The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.

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