Sunday 14 October 2018

Solaris - Stanislaw Lem (1961)

Rating: Sublime

A year or so ago a close friend gifted me a copy of Solaris, telling me that it was among the greatest novels he'd ever read. His words were certainly true, Solaris is a brilliant science fiction novel, and is up there with the great novels from any literary genre. Lem's prose style is beautifully precise and absolutely compelling. It is certainly one of the most psychologically intense novels I have read, with the protagonists life aboard the station hovering above the theoretically sentient 'sea' on the planet of Solaris portrayed in claustrophobic detail. Lem presents a highly believable premise in which humanity grapples with the possibility of first contact and yet struggles pathetically to comprehend the 'sea' of Solaris and the 'visitors' that are generated from their own minds. 

Lem managed to both expose humanity's hubris and also create a presence that is truly alien. The 'sea' broils with creative intent, whilst the visitors torture the crew with their cruelly demanding presence. Solaris has inspired two feature films, one by the Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky and more recently by Steven Soderbergh, both of which are satisfying in their own ways, but in my opinion neither came close to capturing the brilliance of Lem's novel.

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