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Solaris by Lem Stanislaw
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Solaris (original 1961; edition 2003)

by Lem Stanislaw

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3,757771,386 (3.88)1 / 194
Member:tribalwolf
Title:Solaris
Authors:Lem Stanislaw
Info:Faber and Faber (2003), Edition: Tie-In - Film, Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:**
Tags:Science fiction

Work details

Solaris by Stanisław Lem (1961)

  1. 60
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English (61)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Russian (1)  Hungarian (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Not an easy read, but a thought provoking one. This 1961 book suggests an encounter with the truly alien. The humans on the space station orbiting the enigmatic planet/entity Solaris don’t know if they’re researching a planet-sized biological machine, a natural phenomenon that’s just an over-complicated evolutionary dead end, or an incomprehensibly superior intelligent being. Kelvin’s haunting by Rheya, the embodied ghost of a woman from his past, appears to be part of Solaris's attempt to communicate with the space station’s inhabitants, by drawing on their memories and desires. It’s possible Contact has been achieved. But does either party communicate anything that can be comprehended by the other, or do the humans see only themselves, mirrored darkly? ( )
  Bernadette877 | May 14, 2015 |
Lem’s account of a planet covered by what seems to be an intelligent ocean is the work not just of immense imagination but also a critically insightful mind.

Kris Kelvin lands on a manned space station hovering over Solaris, a planet with two suns of differing colours and an ever-moving surface that resembles an ocean of immense dimensions that brought to mind some kind of galactic lava lamp. The scientists he expects to find there are not in the state he expected them to be in when he arrived: one is dead, one has barricaded himself into a laboratory and the last appears to be mad. It’s only a matter of time before Kelvin begins to grasp why and struggles himself not to succumb.

The novel is a sci-fi classic and asks deep questions of science and humanity’s quest for knowledge. In particular, it challenges the way that all human exploration, interplanetary or otherwise, is essentially flawed because of our inability to interpret anything without reference to ourselves. He’s got a point and it’s one which social sciences acknowledge and attempt to reconcile all the time.

The difference here is that Lem is challenging the pure sciences, proponents of which often look down on social sciences as lesser studies due to this very limitation. Having been involved in anthropology and sociolinguistics for some years in my career, I’ve grappled personally with the limitations of the participant observer. I’ve also debated with both of my parents (involved in medical science) that fields such as sociolinguistics are as scientific as those of haematology or parasitology. They have disagreed essentially on the basis that their sciences can prove undoubtedly that x is x and y is y.

Lem’s challenge to this idea was, ironically, published in Poland in 1961, the year both my parents were embarking on their scientific careers. I’ve never heard either of them refer to Solaris. My mother will no longer get the chance. My father will have my copy when I next visit him. It will be interesting to see if he grasps Lem’s point, let alone agrees with it.

As Kris and the remaining two scientists attempt to make sense of their interactions with the ocean of Solaris, the novel builds to its close and kept me engrossed pretty much throughout. It would benefit from a second reading actually. The novel is as relevant today as it was when it was written. ( )
  arukiyomi | Apr 18, 2015 |
I mulled this over for a couple of days hoping for enough clarity to write a coherent review, but instead I'm feeling even more muddled. I liked watching Kelvin react to the Rheya analogue and try to deal with his changing feelings for it/her. And of course I liked the base concept of the planet-wide single-entity very alien intelligent being.

I did not like the long-winded descriptions of the 'ocean' and its creative formations - I was never able to visualize them (but I did, afterwards, find a website with paintings that are excellent). Nor did I understand the point of those descriptions, because we never did get to know anything meaningful about the 'ocean' like its level of intelligence, motivations, understanding of humans, etc. Very weird story. Not recommended. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I'm not usually a sci fi fan - but this book really made me think and nearly made me cry. ( )
  lee-mervin | Apr 12, 2015 |
Solaris is a strange and beautiful planet with unexplained phenomena. The book doesn't have a nice tidy ending and the author's history of the study of the planet and the various theories about what it is and how to communicate with it are more important than the story of the main character's time on the space station orbiting Solaris.

Some quotes:
"The recruitment of scientists to any particular field of study in a given age has never been studied as a phenomenon in its own right. Every generation throws up a fairly constant number of brilliant and determined men; the only difference lies in the direction they choose to take." [p. 167]

"According to Muntius, Solaristics is the space era's equivalent of religion: faith disguised as science. Contact, the stated aim of Solaristics, is no less vague and obscure than the communion of the saints, or the second coming of the Messiah. Exploration is a liturgy using the language of methodology: the drudgery of the Solarists is carried out only in the expectation of fulfillment, of an Annunciation, for there are not and cannot be any bridges between Solaris and Earth. . . . In any case, the 'adepts' do not expect such revelations---of the order of poetry, rather than science---since unconsciously it is Revelation itself that they expect, and this revelation is the explain to them the meaning of the destiny of man! Solaristics is a revival of long-vanished myths, the expression of mystical nostalgias which men are unwilling to express openly. The cornerstone is deeply entrenched in the foundation of the edifice: it is the hope of Redemption.
"Solarists are incapable of recognizing this truth, and consequently take care to avoid any interpretation of Contact, which is presented in their writings as an ultimate goal, whereas originally it had been considered as a beginning, and as a step onto a new path, among many other possible paths. Over the years, Contact has become sanctified. It has become the heaven of eternity." [pp. 172-3] ( )
  raizel | Jan 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (138 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stanisław Lemprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cox, SteveTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, JoannaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bolzoni, E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnston, BillTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Juliani, AlessandroNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Olszewski, JanuszCover artistsecondary 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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Book description
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.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156027607, Paperback)

A classic work of science fiction by renowned Polish novelist and satirist Stanislaw Lem

 

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:34 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"When psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds himself confronting a painful memory embodied in the physical likeness of a past lover. Kelvin learns that hs is not alone in this, and that other crews examining the planet are plagued with their own repressed and newly real memories. Could it be, as Solaris scientists speculate, that the ocean may be a massive neural center creating these memories, for a reason no one can identify? Long considered a classic, Solaris asks the question: Can we understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?" -- back cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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