February 8th, 2012


Book Review: Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem

Humans encounter a planet-sized alien intelligence in this philosophical Polish sci-fi classic.


Audible Frontiers, 1961 (new English translation: 2011), 204 pages

At last, one of the world’s greatest works of science fiction is available - just as author Stanislaw Lem intended it.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Solaris, Audible, in cooperation with the Lem Estate, has commissioned a brand-new translation - complete for the first time, and the first ever directly from the original Polish to English. Beautifully narrated by Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica), Lem’s provocative novel comes alive for a new generation.

In Solaris, Kris Kelvin arrives on an orbiting research station to study the remarkable ocean that covers the planet’s surface. But his fellow scientists appear to be losing their grip on reality, plagued by physical manifestations of their repressed memories. When Kelvin’s long-dead wife suddenly reappears, he is forced to confront the pain of his past - while living a future that never was. Can Kelvin unlock the mystery of Solaris? Does he even want to?

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Verdict: If you like the conjunction of philosophy + psychology + science fiction, and especially if you like Big Dumb Object SF where you get many questions but few answers, then Solaris is the best example of its kind. A thoughtful but very slow-paced novel, one that deserves its literary credibility, but it's easy to see why it's not exactly a genre favorite. Without the trippiness of Heinlein, the science-and-tech wizardry of Asimov, or the engineering geekery of Clarke, it's still a good read for aficionados of classic sci-fi.

My complete list of book reviews.