19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Beware of the Complexity,
By A Customer
This review is from: Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (Paperback)
Not for the casual reader, this devilishly complicated book will have you stumped in the end. So unless you wish to re-read it (in order to finally figure out what it was all about) don't bother with this one. But for those of you searching for that rare book that leaves you wondering and puzzled for days, weeks, years... well, this is it. From the brilliant mind of the best Polish sci-fi writer comes a satire and a comment on those wonderful societies of ours (take your pick: socialism, communism, etc.) and the methods of their tyranny.
The plot is simple: An innocent, foolishly loyal aspiring agent enters his new occupation only to find out that those in power have plans of their own (which he just can't discover). Searching the confines of a "Building", a futuristic military-like establishment hidden underground, he seeks his mission, his purpose and the meaning of his existence. Ultimately, all those disappear before his eyes and turn into code. This skillfully written tale where not one word lacks meaning or purpose (or does it?) attempts to understand methods of population control. Could it be that political systems have, are and will rule their population through skillful semantics-control? (think NEWSPEAK) Lem posits that political rhetoric color not only our judgment but also our ability to perceive the world around us. Concentrating on the cold war tension between the US and CCCP, Lem explores systems which convert all their resources and their entire populations to one task: the destruction of the enemy. To accomplish their goal, they convert the minds of their subject. Much like a child who learns to adhere to the principles of society through the careful teaching of parents, teachers, TV, and others, a member of these societies learns to relinquish to his superiors the ability to judge his surrounding.
The Building's plan is simple: Through a carefully planned mission, our hero learns to loose trust in himself, loose his ambition and the ability to choose how and to whom to be loyal. He learns that he is a tool. He discovers that his only responsibility is to the Building, and that the Building alone can think for him, tell him what, how, and why to think. He learns that he is a part of the Building and that his duty is to serve a predetermined function which he himself can't alter. He learns that he can only make sense of the insane world around him, if he unconditionally adapts the strategies of his surrounding.
In the end, he discovers that a system like the Building has developed into a new life-form (who smiles and leads a life of its own), an organism whom we humans must ultimately serve and whose survival we must guaranty if we ourselves wish to live on. If you can deal with an unorthodox plot (if there is one), and like your books heavy on ideas, this is the book for you. Otherwise, stick with Jordan or Simmons - they're good, too.