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Die Stimme des Herrn: Roman (suhrkamp…
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Die Stimme des Herrn: Roman (suhrkamp taschenbuch) (original 1968; edition 1995)

by Stanislaw Lem, Stanislaw Lem (Author), Roswitha Buschmann (Übersetzer)

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7041120,811 (3.92)18
A pulsating stream of neutrino radiation from a source with the power of a sun has been detected on earth and a team of scientists assembled to study and decode the mysterious message. As the scientists wranle among themselves, clashing and conspiring while jockeying for favor and position, Lem produces a witty and inventive satire of "men of science" and their thinking. In the race to discover whether the message is a technological gift or the formula for the ultimate weapon, the author grapples with the issue of scientific responsibility in a compelling sci-fi thriller.… (more)
Member:Jisi
Title:Die Stimme des Herrn: Roman (suhrkamp taschenbuch)
Authors:Stanislaw Lem
Other authors:Stanislaw Lem (Author), Roswitha Buschmann (Übersetzer)
Info:Suhrkamp Verlag (1995), Edition: 4, Taschenbuch, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Work details

His Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem (1968)

  1. 10
    Solaris by Stanisław Lem (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the Otherness of extraterrestrial life.
  2. 11
    The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays by Martin Heidegger (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Similar theme: the anthropocentrism of modern science.
  3. 00
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the social and cultural roots of science.
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» See also 18 mentions

English (9)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I long ago saw a movie version of _Solaris_, but it was high time that I read the book version of one of Lem's works, often lauded for their insight and profundity. This one is about a government-run attempt to decipher an extraterrestrial intelligence's neutrino-borne message that might have a dire military application. Cerebral and largely devoid of dialog, the writing is quite different from most science fiction but is enjoyable in its own way.
  fpagan | Jan 1, 2017 |
This is a science fiction novel – but it is only sort-of science fiction, and, for that matter, only sort-of a novel.
It's in the form of a memoir – or musing – by a noted mathematician who worked in the upper levels of a secret government project code-named His Master's Voice – the purpose of which was to decode and comprehend a message, seemingly sent by intelligent beings from outer space, on neutrino waves.
We are told from the outset that the project was not successful – no communication was set up, nor was the message even comprehended – but at the same time it had a major impact on society, technology, and more.
So there isn't really any suspense in the book – or even all that much of a plot. It's really just the fictional Dr. Hogarth's thoughts on the matter. However, Hogarth is an erudite, brilliant, philosophical character. ‘His' character sketches of his colleagues are witty, vivid and, I would guess, accurate portrayals of the ‘types' one might find on such a research project. His frequently tangential thoughts cover not only the difficulty of communicating with theoretical aliens, but the nature of communication itself, the nature of humanity, the uses to which we put technology, and especially how culture affects comprehension.
So – although I said it was only ‘sort-of' science fiction, the work deals more with many of the ideas that science fiction as a genre exists to explore, than much of the sci-fi that I have read. And, although it was written in 1967 (not translated into English until the 80's, I believe) it hardly felt dated at all – an impressive feat. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
The translation from Polish to English by Michael Kandel reads like an original. However, Lem’s scientists are immersed in long theoretical discussions about quantum physics and neutrinos much beyond my reading interests. Moreover, as a science-fiction fan, I find Lem’s view on this genre and life in the universe dated and ironic, a view of the Milky Way from 1967, a universe mostly barren and void of exoplanets.

Through his characters, he describes science fiction as:

"that popular genre (especially in the States), called, by a persistent misconception, “science fiction.” (…) The authors of these pseudo-scientific fairy tales supply the public with what it wants: truisms, clichés, stereotypes, all sufficiently costumed and made “wonderful” so that the reader may sink into a safe state of surprise and at the same time not be jostled out of his philosophy of life. (106-107)

But Lem does have many interesting things to say. This book also helps in understanding “Solaris," for it talks about the impossibility of communicating with an Alien mind, a major theme in that book by Lem and the film with George Clooney. Although not a fun book to read, I fully recommend it to fans of science fiction. ( )
  Carlelis | Jun 19, 2014 |
Kind of like The Andromeda Strain, except with no plot, tension or resolution. Lem does his sci-fi dark comedy thing without really coming up with anything interesting. A real disappointment after Solaris. ( )
  _________jt_________ | Nov 17, 2010 |
I've read a handful of Lem's novels and loved them all (surprisingly, though, Solaris made the least impression of the lot), so before picking up this one I had been afraid that I'd just been lucky and this one would stick. No such misfortune! His Master's Voice is astounding.

His Master's Voice is a novel of ideas and (a) character, not of plot. In fact, the novel follows almost an anti-plot: the narrator gives us an extensive survey of his moral landscape ("What counted for me was the calculus of resistance, which had nothing in common with the arithmetic of morality."), tells of being seconded into a secret program to decode an extra-terrestrial signal (which, we know from the beginning, failed), and describes a quasi-conspiracy he sort-of got involved in. It's a testament to Lem's writing (and Kandel's translation - I can't praise Kandel's work enough, on this novel and others) that the novel remains engaging throughout and never lags.

The chief idea of the novel is the Otherness of the non-human - not just extra-terrestrial life, if it exists, but "Nature" in general. The failure of the program, in the narrator's eyes, stems in part from the inability of the scientific imagination to free itself from anthropomorphism (think Solaris) and from politics (think LeGuin's The Dispossessed). On the one hand, the researchers are unable to resist positing human-like intelligence and intention behind the signal; on the other, they program is handicapped by the pressure to instrumentalize the signal. This critique makes the novel an effective illustration of Heidegger's essay, "The Question Concerning Technology," regarding the anthropomorphization and instrumentalization of nature and knowledge.

Lem criticizes science fiction for a similiar failure of imagination. I understand that he was dissatisfied with much of the genre, and takes a swipe at it here:

"He had not read [science fiction] before; he was annoyed - indignant, even - expecting variety, finding monotony. 'The have everything except fantasy," he said. Indeed, a mistake. The authors of these pseudo-scientific fairy tales supply the public with what it wants: truisms, cliches, stereotypes, all sufficiently costumed and made 'wonderful' so that the reader may sink into a safe state of surprise and at the same time not be jostled out of his philosophy of life."

So richly written, the meditations on science and civilization here cover a lot of ground, which I won't try to summarize here. Ultimately, His Master's Voice challenges the reader to unmoor the imagination from culture and habit, and to imagine something - intelligence, civilization, values - from a perspective wholly Other than ourselves.
  TMrozewski | Jul 29, 2010 |
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