Thursday, 3 September 2020

Lem, Stanisław "Solaris"

Lem, Stanisław "Solaris" (Polish: Solaris (powieść)) - 1961

If you research the author, it sounds like Stanisław Lem is one of the greatest science fiction writers ever. And I fully understand after having read this book. It is quite extraordinary and not at all like what you often find in science fiction stories.

First of all, you don't find the usual "aliens" in the book that are just humans in disguise. No, it's a completely different kind of species that Stanisław Lem comes up with. So unreal that it sounds more real than all the other science fiction stories.

There is a lot of psychology in this book, the memories of earthlings are sometimes more alien than any Babel Fish, Borg, Cat, Dalek, Droid, Ewok, Klingon, Vulcan or whatever the names of those extra-terrestrials in the popular sci-fi series are.

I'm not a huge fan of science fiction though I have read a few books that were not too bad. But this one I found fantastic, exciting, gripping, captivating, intriguing, riveting. I couldn't find enough words to express my feelings.

I totally liked this quote:

"We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is."

I think the author managed this very well. I am very glad that my book club chose this novel because I doubt I would have ever found or read it otherwise.

Comments from other members:

  • There was one chapter that I thought was a bit too wordy, but it's mostly an easy read.
  • I really liked the book, especially how the author talentfully built up the feeling in the story and characters and the futility and frustration of understanding an alien being.
  • We also had a good laugh about the faulty logic in the test of sanity made by Kelvin. And the possibility that the characters in the story were suffering from space-madness and possibly were a representation of high-IQ people.
  • I hadn't read it before, but had read another book by Lem called Fiasco, which I am now going to reread (I own a copy). I really liked the book, and it's also interesting for me reading a book by a Polish author, as I lived there for a little while.
  • When looking up books to read for us I always get side-tracked by a lot of articles about the book and authors. I especially thought it was interesting to learn about the different translations of the book. I read a Swedish translation made in the 70-s from French, while the Finnish translation was made from German.
    I feel the same, would love to know which translation is closer to the original.
  • Our library was unable to obtain this book for me so eventually I reluctantly read it online. I like to hold a book to get into it. I got into this book in spite of myself. It triggered reflections on our elaborate defenses against understanding reality, and against reading novels on a screen.

This was our book club novel in August 2020.

From the back cover:

"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.


  1. I will be reading this soon. Glad to know it is so good!

    1. You know I'm not a huge fan of science fiction though this book club reads one every couple of months. If they were all like this, make you think what might be out there and not to see our world as the only possible given, I'd probably be a science fiction fan. I'm not surprised the author was the most widely read science fiction writer in the world.

      Happy Reading. Can't wait for your review.

  2. So glad you liked it. You now need to watch the two movies made on it. With two different interpretations and endings.
    I tend to find classical scifi really fascinating

    1. Mmmh, I'm not a big scifi reader and I'm even less a scifi watcher. I might check whether they have it on Netflix in Germany. Thanks for the recommendation.