11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 2004
Like 'Mortal Engines', this collection of short stories is lovely. If you want to classify the genre, they're... bed-time stories for androids. The Cyberiad is probably the better of the two collections, but it's a close-run thing. The collection starts with the tale of an inventor who creates a machine which can make anything that starts with an 'n'. Everything goes well until a rival tells the machine to do 'nothing' and it starts deleting bits of reality... Futurist fairy tales, every one. Translation from the original Polish has been handled very well. Even the occasional poems still rhyme, and still feature clever puns.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 5 June 1999
I first read this wonderful book many years ago but reread it recently and enjoyed it even more. It's a collection of short stories set in a distant future (or possibly a distant past) where all the characters are robots and only ancient legends tell of the horrible slimy 'protoplasmic goo' people who came before (i.e. humans). They are comic fairy tales, poking fun at computers, maths and science in general. The two heroes are 'constructors' , 'Trurl' and 'Klapaucius' who can create almost anything, from a machine which composes poetry 'two hundred and twenty, to three hundred and forty seven times better' than the best poets to one which can make anything beginning with the letter 'N'. The stories are all philosophically absurd and very funny as a result! I agree with previous posters that the translation is excellent (particularly on the poetry - I can't imagine what it was like in Polish but it is brilliant in English!) I rather like the story where Trurl constructs an eight-storey thinking machine which refuses to admit that 2 and 2 is not 7. Why does this remind me of work? (I'm a computer programmer!)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 21 October 2009
The blurb on my copy of this book waffles on about the stories being about rival inventors vying with each other to create ever more ludicrous machines to carry out ever more ludicrous purposes in a blinding satire on the genius and futility of man's inventiveness. So I suppose that's what it's about. But either way this book is a masterpiece.
This collection of short stories is a translation of Lem's Polish original, and so it's a wonder that the humour, which mainly works because of the clever wordplay, translates from another language. In these humorous stories there are machines who can build anything beginning with the letter 'N', storytelling machines, war machines, poetry writing machines, thinking machines that can't add up...
Although I've read this book many times I find it hard to convey why I love it so much, other than that it reads like no other. The tales are gentle, but strange. They are poetic, but implausible. They are satirical, but without malice. The language is of fables, the structure whimsical. If you're looking for a focussed parody on the relentless quest for technological invention, this isn't exactly it. But if you want a warm, friendly and original read, then this is the book for you.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 1996
There is no book in my mind that covers the whole of the
universe like this. Humans and machines alike are given
a humorous treatment, during which you will be tickled
pink by Lem's ingenuous twists of imagination, and after
which you no longer can take humans or machines too
seriously. The translation from Polish is a work of art in
its own right - witty, concise, elegant, and fluent.
Lem is a great thinker, and the depth of his writing only
hits one after a few moments. Read this book and let its
gentle humor move you. You'll never regret it.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2002
Cyberiad is not for the faint-hearted. Below the inventive, charming, slapstick veneer deep philosophical problems are reworked.
As you delve into the hilarious and frighteningly
intelligent world of Lem, you realise that you are being educated in the arcanery of metaphysical philosophy too. But it`s not stuffy-
in fact Reason is completely OUT TO LUNCH!
The tome is actually illustrated with unique drawings- shades of `Alice`!
Be warned:- Arts graduates and others who are not versed in the refined arts of cybernetics might find it hard to understand.
However those who DO are in for a real treat!
This is the reviewers favourite book.
An unsung modern classic. Unsung because it`s does not pander to the Lowest Common Denominator.
you will be blown away by the wit and perceptivness of an author who should be acknowleged as one of, if not THE best, Sci-Fi authors of all time.
It`s so good you`ll be changed by it!
"One day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could create anything starting with the letter `n`", begins the book. As this first story progresses, the universe itself is endangered (for Nothingness, my friend, also starts with `n`).
Cyberiad is a compendium of very short stories `for the cybernetic age`, all linked by the metallic-but-exceedingly-human characters of Trurl and Klapaucius. And, as you read, it just
gets better and better.
The story `Trurl`s electronic bard` is my favourite. Trurl constructs
a poem-generating machine (not without effort!), with truly hilarious repercussions.
Cyberiad is a Gem.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 May 2011
Cosmologist Sean Carroll nominated this as a "lost sc-fi classic" in "New Scientist" magazine last year. It's an absurdist study of a robot-dominated future and as such doesn't have any precedents in science fiction that I can think of, although the style has an illustrious history in both fantasy (Lord Dunsany, James Branch Cabell, Jack Vance, Mervyn Peake - as another reviewer has picked up on - and latterly Terry Pratchett) and main-stream literature from Rabelais to Bulgakov. But I can think of two important later SF creations that appear, whether deliberately or accidentally, to owe a lot to the Cyberiad, both in terms of their general absurdist style and their sentient machines: "The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy" (think of Marvin and Deep Thought) and Matt Groening's "Futurama" (Bender and all the other robots, particularly those on Chapek 9). And maybe a third in Terry P's Hex if you accept Discworld as borderline SF/fantasy.
When I had read a couple of chapters I thought I was going to love the book, but to be honest for me the conceit wore thin after a while. The stories would probably read better taken about once a month, like in a magazine (is that how they first appeared?). But there are so many good ideas in the book that I have to recommend that you at least dip into a borrowed copy. It would almost be worth learning Polish to read it in the original!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 May 2004
This is the first of Lem's books I have read, it is compulsively readable, you cannot get bored of it. A fantastic set of short stories, even if you're not a fan of sci fi, once you get your mind around Lem's amazingly descriptive writing, you'll find something you enjoy. There's even a little moral behind each story.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to start reading Lem's work and don't know where to start, it'll give you a taster of his great skill and his fantastic imagination. To those of you who already read Lem - another piece of his work at it's best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 1999
My first encounter with Lem was with Ijon Tichy starring in the simply indescribable The Star Diaries. Lem's unusual viewpoint, combined with a superlative brilliant literary technique, is evident on every page of The Cyberiad. The author was said to have explained that his name does not stand for Lunar Excursion Module. ;-) If you think you're supposed to enjoy Eco as much as his reputation promises and feel a little short-changed, then instead read Lem; he's the real genius. And Kandel! How does he do it?
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2003
First thing that strikes you is the very unusual style reminiscent of Mervyn Peaks' Gormonghast (it feels like the author just loves the sound of words) with a little bit of Kurt Vonnegut thrown in as well.
To be honest it's not the kind of thing that I usually like to read, but it did start to grow on me by the time I'd read about half way.
The story about the PhD Pirate was very funny with a fairly profound insight into the uselessness of knowledge without context.
Not for everybody but in the end I did enjoy it.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 1996
More than anyone else, Stanislaw Lem
understands the unique potential of the Science Fiction
depictions of non-human intelligences, whether alien or
artificial, are consistently compelling. His insight into
humanity and our role in the Cosmos is unmatched (at least
among SF authors). As far as I can tell, Lem has never
written a bad book, and his reservoir of fresh ideas is
However, this is a review of a book, not an author :-),
I have read and enjoyed most of Lem's work, but I still go
back and re-read The Cyberiad every year or so. I always
hope to find something new, and I am never disappointed. It
amazes me to see how many of the deepest ideas from Lem's
other books are echoed somewhere in these stories. And
their style is Lem's best: The futuristic "fable", mixing
intellectual slapstick, brilliant wordplay, and deep
philosophy as only Lem can.
I guarantee The Cyberiad will make you laugh hard and think
harder. What more could you want from your reading?