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The Investigation Paperback – Jul 1986


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Product details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt Publishers Ltd; 1st Harvest/HBJ Ed edition (July 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156451581
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156451581
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 535,810 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 1 May 2001
Format: Paperback
Excellent story about a detective who is trying to figure out a murder mystery. Great suspense. You do not know who is the murderer until the end (and not even then really). The ending leaves the reader with a lot to think about. Its worth the read. One of the best books of Lem that I read. (You can disagree if you like screws and bolts, Lems robots).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ANON on 25 Jun 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Lem is probably the only author who could get me to read a detective thriller set around Scotland Yard. This one sets up many, many questions, with each new discovery proving more tantalising than the previous. It really is a page-turner - at least for those who share similar interests to Lem. Here again he explores issues of chance (chaos, etc) which he dealt with, perhaps a bit better, in The Chain of Chance. I would not recommend this book for those who like Inspector Morse, Agatha Christie, etc, because there is no neat solution at the end of this - just a lot of questions, with a very Kafkaesque feel to much of the happenings. The point is, and Lem has made this in a number of his other works, is that there are many things in this world that are subject to laws beyond rational understanding, be it a string of corpses being invaded by alien microbes, or a message from the stars which no one can deciper. Ultimately the detective in The Investigation fails in his task (because it is simply non achievable). Likewise in other Lem books, like 'His Master's Voice', 'Eden,' The Invicible', etc, the protaganists fail miserably in trying to make contact with an alien race. People who like Lem will like him instinctively. People will like The Investigation for the same reason.
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Format: Paperback
"Who would an armed constable run away from?" Gregory repeated, a blank expression on his face. He didn't expect an answer, and he didn't get one.

---

A young Scotland Yard officer with an analytical mind is assigned to investigate a strange case involving missing dead bodies. The superficial evidence suggests that the bodies simply came back to life and walked away. But Lieutenant Gregory knows that is impossible, and sets out to find the truth. It turns out this universe might be the wrong place to look for it.

Are cause and effect really connected, or are they simply statistically relevant coincidences? If there is no apparent connection between A and B, and yet B always follows A, can you accept that sequence of events without looking for an underlying connection? What if you look but can't find it? And what happens when you go deep enough into a phenomenon you think you have figured out, into the realm of quantum physics, where no individual event is certain, and yet there is statistical consistency? How can a simple and elegant rule emerge from a sea of seemingly random and unconnected events? Is the rule real? What is causation? What is logic? Are they merely mental constructs that give us peace of mind?

These are some of the questions masterfully asked by Stanislaw Lem in "The Investigation". What superficially looks like a crime novel set in the late 20th century, with some supernatural elements thrown in, slowly reveals itself to be a metaphor for advanced physics and the nature of human understanding.

It is not an easy book to read. It's dense, somewhat kafkian, and most of it seems to lead nowhere (which is, ultimately, the whole point). It can be infuriating and will test the limits of your patience.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Barlow on 27 Oct 2008
Format: Hardcover
I don't know if it's a fault of the original or the translation (my copy was translated by Adele Milch in 1974), but a book supposedly set in England shouldn't be full of American cars, American police ranks ("lieutenant"), American legal terms ("misdemanours" and "felonies"), an American "metro" network (even including an elevated section) and cops who routinely go about with guns. And all the dialogue is in US English not in English English.

This might seem like nitpicking (and if you don't live in England it may not bother you) but for me, the continual jarring that it causes makes it very difficult to stay absorbed in the actual plot. As one who greatly enjoyed both the Cyberiad and Solaris, I'm surprised that Lem would tackle a genre he was apparently unwilling or unable to get the basic facts right in.

(Note that it may just be the translation and there has been another more recent translation which for all I know may be a lot better. But I would definitely recommend finding out first if you think it's going to annoy you)
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By NickDepenpan123 on 7 Dec 2011
Format: Paperback
I like fiction books that examine serious questions in the course of the narrative but in my opinion, the execution here is very flawed. Perhaps I could describe the book as a cross between the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, a philosophy on the nature of the world and science (say by David Hume) and the fiction/philosophy of Milan Kundera. However...

Unlike PKD, there's no clever plot that engages and intrigues, and there's no resolution either. PKD let the stories speak for themselves and provide the philosophical questions. Here, this is achieved crudely, by having the plot as a transparent vehicle for the author to put long abstract, philosophical/psychological words to the mouths of the characters. As a result, characters are inconsistent, pretentious sounding, and unrealistic.

Unlike Hume, the philosophical bits feel incomplete and superficial. DH used precise language and argumentation, and also wrote modestly about what philosophy, reasoning and words can achieve. Here, there's a lot of abstract, imprecise language, and cinematic descriptions that detract from the ideas (which are not that unique in the first place, it's a somewhat post-modernist, all-is-relative, observations-and-facts-are-in-the-mind arguement, hammered again and again with no variety).

Finally, unlike Kundera, there's no flowing readability. Kundera walks the fiction/philosophy line by switching between story and thoughts/philosophy. Perhaps not ideal but better than the mishmash here. You have street-wise Scotland Yard officers talk in a weird, half-formal, half-casual language (switches randomly) which I've never heard in real life.
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