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

by Lem Stanislaw

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,682731,427 (3.88)1 / 190
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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  2. 30
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  4. 10
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  5. 10
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  9. 00
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  10. 00
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English (57)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  French (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  Russian (1)  Hungarian (1)  Slovak (1)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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 |
I had tried Lem before in the form of The Cyberiad and A Perfect Vacuum and wasn't able to get through either. I'm glad I didn't give up on him, though, as Solaris is one of the finest pieces of science fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

Lem captures true otherness with the planet Solaris, while nearly every other science fiction book I've read feature aliens that are the literary equivalent of guys in rubber masks. It's almost infuriating to read science fiction featuring these kind of "aliens" now, since Lem showed me how it's done right.

Of course if an alien alien is all that Lem accomplished with this book it might not be that great overall, but luckily he uses this book and the titular alien to explore what it means to be human, as the great works of science fiction are wont to do. We learn how man has studied Solaris for years, ascribing theories to it and attempting to understand it, always having made assumptions about the planet's desire to reciprocate that prove untrue. Kris Kelvin arrives at the station hovering above Solaris to continue that research, only to find that the planet has created new manifestations from the memories of the station's few inhabitants. Revenants from the past are given new life- but are they human? Or even alive at all?

The opening of this book is terrifying as few books are, all the while raising questions about what makes something alive, and how we should respond to the negative memories that haunt every person's brain. The closing of the book also leaves many questions to ponder. The book trusts the reader, always a plus. In sum the book inspired a myriad of emotions in me as well as left me with much to think about, an impressive feat for such a slim volume.

If you like science fiction at all, read Solaris. It's not just a great book in the genre, it's a great book period. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
I listened to the audio book which was released in 2011 and translated by Bill Johnston, providing the first actual translation from the Polish to English. The other translations were translated from the French which was translated from the Polish. This translation is also available in an e-book and is approved by the Lem estate. The audio was narrated by Alessandro Juliani and I think it was well done.

Lem the author, wrote a philosophical novel but Solaris also is a science fiction novel and it explores communication with an alien. The book starts with Kris Kelvin’s arrival by spaceship Promethus to the space station of Solaris. Solaris is an ocean and its atmosphere is not oxygenated. As Kelvin is flying to Solaris he misses several things he had hoped to see, the book starts with failure to perceive and communicate. When he arrives he is greeted with confusion, decline and disorder. One scientist is barricaded in and another is drunk and afraid. The man that Kris was to work with on the station has died.

May contain spoilers*************************
The people on the space station have “visitors”. Kelvin notices child sounds coming from the room where Dr. Sartorius is hiding. The other, Dr. Snaut talks about visitors and Kris notices his bloody knuckles. Kris also sees a giant black woman who is connected to the dead scientist. Soon Kris is visited by his own, Harey. We soon learn that Harie had been Kris’s partner and that she suicided after Kris had left her and told her she wasn’t brave enough to kill herself. Kris discovers the injection site where the poison was injected and her dress has no zipper. The ocean is creating these visitors from reading their minds. Kris understands this but becomes attached to this Harey.

There are many philosophical themes in this book, one being a defective God.

Themes: failures to perceive, breakdowns in communication, puzzling nature of reality and limits of science.

First sentence: At 1900 hours, ship’s time, I made my way to the launching bay.

Last words: I knew nothing, and I persisted int he faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.

Comment on movie: I have not seen the movie. I understand George Clooney plays Kelvin. I also understand that the movie was close to the book but did not capture the author’s vision and therefore this is one case where reading the book may be beneficial to understanding the movie to its fullest.

Opinion: Very good

Read: October 2014 ( )
  Kristelh | Oct 8, 2014 |
Still holds up just as well as when I last read it. Thank you, Mr. Lem, for giving us such excellent literature to enjoy. ( )
  tlockney | Sep 7, 2014 |
Solaris combines dense, wonderfully imaginative, fictional science with philosophical musings on the human condition, particularly on the topic of loss. My own inexperience with loss made large swaths of the book emotionally inaccessible. Thus, the mediocre rating. It would be worth re-visiting this book later in life. ( )
  The_Kat_Cache | Jul 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (138 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stanisław Lemprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bolzoni, E.Translatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cox, SteveTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kilmartin, JoannaTranslatormain 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:54 -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)

» see all 6 descriptions

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