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Solaris
Solaris
by Stanislaw Lem
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Science Fiction of Inner Space, 12 July 2003
This review is from: Solaris (Paperback)
Stanislaw Lem's SF classic Solaris is, like so much of 20th century European literature, a meditation on the mystery of the human condition. Using the central metaphor of a giant planet that appears to possess the characteristics of sentience, but whose ultimate nature has remained mysterious despite generations of scientific research and attempts at communication,
the story tells of the desperate unknowability of humans to each other. The tragedy of the relationship between Kris Kelvin and Rheya, his re-animated lover, is that of all humanity: we cannot penetrate to the essence of those we love, for they are finally as incomprehensible to themselves as we are to ourselves. The rebirth of Rheya mirrors our own entry into the world and our struggle to become authentic to ourselves, to know what we are and why, if there is a reason, we are.
I hope this doesn't make it seem that Solaris is some terribly gloomy, ponderous philosophical discourse. On the contrary, it is a tale with many beauties: the evocative descriptions of the effects of the blue and red light from Solaris's twin suns; the ballet of generation and decay and regeneration enacted by the amazing mimoids, symmetriads and asymmetriads; and the development of the strange love between Kelvin and Rheya. And there is the wry humour of the history of Solarist research and theory, a compendium of creativity, crankiness and curiosity that mirrors on the cultural level the problem of our individual need to feel a real communication with others and how we project ourselves, our images and desires and obsessions, onto the world.
There is a well managed air of suspense and threat too. Lem has not forgotten the necessity of making the reader want to know what happens next.
This book contains much descriptive material, but I feel that it is on the whole essential to the philosophical underpinning of the story. Without detailed images of the planet's incredible structures and processes the narrative would lose its point altogether. Both Solaris and Rheya would be senseless, empty images. However, the philosophical discussion between Kelvin and Snow at the end seems a little adventitious. It deals with some interesting if not genuinely original notions of a lonely God who has lost control of His creation, drawing parallels with Solaris and humanity, but I would have preferred these ideas to have been hinted at subtextually rather than given a full exposition. On the other hand, there is something achingly poignant about the ending.
As always with the finest genre fiction, Solaris transcends the stylings and tropes of SF and proves to be a compelling, highly readable classic of world fiction.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2010 11:27 PM GMT


Revolver
Revolver
Offered by sellerfellauk
Price: 14.89

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blasphemous Perfection of Human Creativity, 6 July 2003
This review is from: Revolver (Audio CD)
There is only one absolutely essential Beatles recording, one that is quite flawless: the revolutionary Revolver. With this LP the Fab Four attained the pinnacle of popular music composition, production and performance. Ahead of its time, it encapsulates all that was happening musically in the 60s and anticipated things to the extent that it sounds absolutely modern even in 2003. This record introduced a spacey, edgy quality to Byrdsian folk-rock (She Said, She Said); world music fusion (Love You To);
one of the greatest, grungiest, gnarliest guitar riffs ever recorded (Taxman - stolen blind by Paul Weller and proof of George Harrison's songwriting genius and underrated guitar brilliance) and ambient dance-rock (the sublime Tomorrow Never Knows, which still seems futuristic). There is sexuality, spirituality, surrealism, satire and sly humour, and of course the achingly desolate beauty of Eleanor Rigby. Gorgeous melodies, fine and unusual lyrics, brilliant arrangements and soulful, accomplished playing and singing abound on this wonderful album.
There is nothing more I can add, except to urge you, if you only want to own one Beatles record, to get Revolver. It will make you happy!


We (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
We (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics)
by Yevgeny Zamyatin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Original Dystopian Classic, 18 Jun 2003
'We' is rightly regarded as a classic of 20th century literature. It may be classified as SF but, as with all great works within that genre, it is not merely a tale of future possibilities but a critique of contemporary social conditions. Naturally this work has been seen as a satire of early Soviet society; Zamyatin well understood the connection between the utopian scientism of Leninist ideology and the mechanisation of the individual implied in the practice of authoritarian collectivism.
But there is more to 'We' than a lampooning of totalitarian communism. Zamyatin wittily and chillingly takes apart the notion of utilitarianism as a viable social philosophy. Surely his OneState city of glass, where everyone can be seen by the sinister Guardians, is inspired by the Panoptican, that giveaway of the authoritarian threat underlying classic liberalism. 'We' demonstrates that rationalist faith in progress and its concomitant fetishisation of technology can lead to dictatorship, cultural stasis and the suppression of the individual. The worship of order and a putative happiness can create an oppressive metaphysics of system-over-individuals as damaging as any suprahuman utopian vision based on emotion and myth.
This is also a story of obsessive love, of the imagination irrupting into a world flattened out into a lifelessness born of the apotheosis of order and reason. Zamyatin writes powerfully of the insistence of the self that it should live, breathe, invest its being with meaning, that it should be open to creativity, to Possibility.
I would have given this book 5 stars if not for some obtrusive flaws in the translation, but these are not nearly annoying enough to spoil one's enjoyment of the story.


Lenin: A Biography
Lenin: A Biography
by Robert Service
Edition: Paperback

11 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Example of the Biographer's Art, 29 May 2003
This review is from: Lenin: A Biography (Paperback)
This is one of the finest biographies I have ever read. Service provides a detailed and convincing analysis of Lenin's personality and how it drove him to become the leader of the Soviet revolution. He draws on material only made available since the KGB files were opened in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet government, and thus has been able to expel various myths and examples of spin that had grown around the image of old Vladimir Ilyich. The complexities of internecine fights and power struggles on the Russsian left, Lenin's masterfully Machiaevellian manipulations and the account of his long years in exile are particularly well drawn, and the resulting effect of Service's efforts is a telling exposition of how the forces of history and the individual will can become fatally intertwined. A must-read for all students of Russia and 20th century history.


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