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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Science Fiction of Inner Space
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,...
Published on 12 July 2003 by jimzovich

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3.0 out of 5 stars Solaris by Stanislav Lem
A puzzling book, allegedly now a cult book. One man's vision, did he manage to put it into words others could understand and feel similarly, in translation? I am not sure what he was intending really comes across. It was okay.
Published 4 months ago by A. W. Thom


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53 of 55 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.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic SF-novel from 1961., 22 Feb 2003
By 
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
(No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Solaris (Paperback)
Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel gets another reissue, this edition to tie in with the Steven Soderbergh adaptation starring George Clooney.
Lem's book is everything good science fiction is, 14 chapters succinctly written that explore notions of memory & science; this is one instance of space fiction (not my fave area in SF) that comes across brilliantly. It is hard to go into the book without giving too much away, Solaris functioning like the best works of science fiction- using the genre to look at our place in the universe. The book having a timeless quality to it- as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles (I know that uses dates from the beginning of the 21st century, but conqeuring Mars has not yet been done) or Arthur C. Clarke's short story, The Sentinel- which became 2001: A Space Odyssey (to which this book can be related- though it was before Kubrick's 1968 film).
From what I've seen & heard about Soderbergh's Solaris (2002), it was met with indifference by the US public after poor marketing (another example of this is evident when looking at the cover of this reissue, I'd plump for the 2001 Faber issue, which is a few quid cheaper & has a wonderful blue/stars cover); the film was remodelled around test audiences (whose opinion lead to the ellipsis of some sex scenes, which is a depressing thought when the film stars one of the most beautiful women in the world, Natasha McElhone!). Clooney appears to be miscast as Kris Kelvin, psychiatry at odds with his handsome features- & I'm not sure how much sense the US version will make, stuck somewhere between Hollywood & the influence of Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 adaptation (reissued on DVD last year, brilliant- though rather long & a bit pointless in parts, like 2001...).
The films exist, but I'd go back to the source novel to bask in the glory of Lem's vision: this book reminding me of those lucid dreams you have & the feeling deep down that you know it's just a dream (but you never want to leave). An excellent science fiction novel, one that easily ranks up there with such great works of the genre as We, The Drowned World, Cities in Flight, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, The Sirens of Titan & The Man Who Fell to Earth...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The main brain, 28 Oct 2009
By 
L. R. Richardson (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Solaris (Paperback)
This book has been on my list for awhile. Solaris is about the alienness of aliens, and how ultimately two such diverse species are incapable of fully understanding each other. Humans, in their common hubris, discover a planet that is essentially a giant ocean of a brain and go to study it. Needless to say, the species with the larger brain ends up studying them. This brain can manipulate the humans and cause them to see what they feel the most guilty about, driving most of the visiting astronauts insane. Kris Kelvin visits Solaris and is in turn visited by his dead wife, Rheya, who died not long after they married. At first she behaves just like the deceased wife, but she gradually changes.

At times the translation from the Polish was a bit clunky (loads of filters and some awkward phrasing) and at times the book divulged into long ruminations of the astrophysics behind the alien, which I found rather dull. Aside from that, it was an engaging read that raised interesting philosophical points about human nature and the effect the brain can have on the body.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First English unabridged edition, 29 Dec 2011
By 
M. Williams (Traveller) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Solaris (Kindle Edition)
After 50 years, an unabridged English edition of Solaris has been long overdue. The inferior version otherwise available, an abridged Polish to French to English edition can finally be put aside.

While neither Amazon nor Premier Digital Publishing have publicised the fact, this is the new full direct translation by Bill Johnston, previously only available as an audiobook. I just downloaded a sample chapter to confirm that this indeed that version.

I'm still looking forward to putting a paper version on my shelf next to the remainder of my Lem editions, and await others of his works that have not made it to English.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly philosophical; Short; Moody to Depressing, 19 Oct 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Solaris (Paperback)
This book will make you think, even if you think regularly. Many dislike this book because it is "drab", "descriptive", "depressing", "philosophical", "open-ended". Yes, the language and description are rather tedious, occasionally. Yes, the subject matter is serious and pessimistic. However, this is a great book, a classic, imperfect yet substantial. Its mood and subject matter remind me of Sartre, who admittedly is not for everyone yet did receive a Nobel prize. It is not your typical scifi thriller, but rather uses scifi techniques to efficiently and tangibly explore modern philosophical themes. And rest assured that after Lem's made his point, he'll end his book. Which may give you 2-3 days you might have spent reading another book to contemplate this one. Contrast this book to, say, those of C.S. Lewis. Same length, similar themes, opposite influences/mindset.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual speculative fiction well-worth a read!, 26 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Solaris (FF Classics) (Paperback)
As a reader one becomes used to the notion of a plot in a novel which exists to pull the characters forward, or certainly to define them. Solaris does not conform to this idea. It is content to be an ethereal look at man's inner world using the device of a strange sea-covered world that, as the blurb says, is a huge brain. Innermost thoughts are turned into material entities, and chaos, both internally and externally is the result.
A most interesting and philosophical book that is really genre-free, and does not particularly fall under the category of science fiction, excepting in superficial form.
There is a film version of this by Tarkovsky, the Soviet film-maker that dates from the early Seventies, but they are really very different works, much like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is very different to the book by Arthur. C. Clarke. The film relies on extended periods of silence and little movement to create a feeling of space and time, whereas the book achieves this by its concepts and style.
All in all, I would recommend this as a read. It is very much an Eastern European book in the depth and types of observations it makes, and creates a fascinating world. If you like ideas and are not only driven by character-enjoyment, you won't regret giving this one a read.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is there anybody out there ??, 14 Aug 2002
By 
Mr. W. Hardy "GH" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Solaris (FF Classics) (Paperback)
This is one of those novels which I find hard to classify (not that I feel the need to pin everything down, or arrange them in neatly labelled pigeon-holes). It is undoubtedly science-fiction, but there are elements of horror, philosophy and xeno-psychology (if I may call it that).
Lem creates such a claustrophobic atmosphere, but on a planetary scale. At times the creeping paranoia almost drips off the page. Most of all, I found there was a sense of alienation and the attempt to overcome or adapt to this. So much of the human condition is explored, but my opinion is that this is a completely personal thing, and is bound to be different for everyone who reads this.
What struck me the most was the fact that this is a 'contact' novel - mans attempt to contact, communicate with and understand something completely alien. The attempts at contact seem crude, but this appears to be as a result of the paranoia and isolation experienced by the personnel on the station.
So many ideas in this novel have evidently influenced much that followed it. I found parts of it reminiscent of the movie 'Event Horizon', and a little of Crichton's novel 'Sphere'.
I was completely captivated by this, and will be delving into the works of Mr. Lem again in the very near future.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable Science Fiction Classic, 23 April 2012
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This review is from: Solaris (Kindle Edition)
I got this book after hearing a small part of a Radio 4 adaptation; I haven't seen either of the 2 films mentioned by other reviewers.

It's not a long book (224 pages) - which is good, as once I got into it, I couldn't put it down!

This translation is very easy to read, even in the sections that give a "technical" narrative of the history of Solaris.

For any science fiction fan that likes a book that makes you think, then I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read, 27 Feb 2012
This review is from: Solaris (Kindle Edition)
I like a good uncomplicated sci fi from time to time and Solaris did not disappoint. After watching the movie for the third time recently I really wanted to finally check the book out so it could shed more light on the characters for me. Well it did not disappoint. It's not a very long book and I do like the way the writer drifts off for a few chapters to give the planet Solaris it's own history and back story, which filled in a few plot holes from the movie. But all in all and at the heart of it a really great, sad and tragic love story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 5 Feb 2012
This review is from: Solaris (Kindle Edition)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Far better and less obscure than either film (Russian or American)that I've seen, and I'm glad to say while there are obvious similarities the details of the plot differ from either. I wanted to know what really happened in orbit around Solaris :-)and the differences made the read worthwhile. The dialogue is quite gripping and it's a real page-turner. The book took almost less time to read than either film (no that's not true, I read it over a few days, but the films were quite long as well.) The narrative history of Solaris goes on a bit but is eloquent, though perhaps not to modern taste and could be skimmed a little. The suspense (horror if you prefer) and altogether sympathetic and believable characters make up for that. Loved it.
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