Rich, Emotional, Touching, Smart, and most of all - VERY BELIEVABLE - an important characteristic for Sci Fi.
Give yourself time and space to listen to this one - it is transcending!
A planet-sized organism probes its human investigators in ways that they can barely understand. The novel puts you close to an oceanic being and goes deeper and deeper into philosophy. This is one book I will keep on my iphone permanently.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I would not put it up there with my all-time favorite sci-fi (Rendezvous With Rama, The Mote in God's Eye, others), but it gives them a run for their money.
For some reason, I was initially turned off by the idea of a "living planet" because it smacked too much of the "Gaia" concept, which I associate with a lot of bad, preachy-teachy sci-fi and fantasy. I'd assumed it had an environmentalist message (i.e. Solaris as a stand-in for earth - take care of the earth, it's a living thing, etc., etc.) and written it off.
Then for some reason (I suppose it was this "definitive edition" and the fact that the clip Audible provided caught my interest), I took a chance and downloaded this, and am very happy I did. I was totally wrong in my assumptions about this story. I enjoyed it a lot, and recommend it.
Lem creates a very compelling world and asks some probing questions. And although dated, the material holds up well, as it deals with more existential philosophy, rather than hard science. The narrative does sometimes ramble and I found some parts only held my interest because of the outstanding voice acting of Alessandro Juliani. However, this is a hauntingly beautiful book and with this recording well worth the money.
Is this book for you if you want intrigue and chase scenes in every chapter? Absolutely not. But if you have the patience for an unfolding story that ends in more questions than easy answers, you can't do much better. Some of the jargon is showing its age, but once you get past the anachronisms (tape recorders on a space station in the future), this is a fantastic story.
The reader is Alessandro Juliani (Felix Gaeta in Battlestar Galactica). He's an accomplished voice actor (he's a classically-trained singer) and his interpretation of the roles is interesting, and quite different from both films. Snaut comes off as Tom Waits with a head cold and Sartorius is far more obviously passive-aggressive - using formal language and a sing-song tone to distance himself - than the quite harshly sardonic versions in both films. I also noted how little Sartorius actually appears directly instead of being a merely implied presence and actor. Harey is the least convincing, but then on the page she was only sketched in outline anyway.
With Stanislaw Lem, characters are never the primary focus, except insofar as they serve to reveal peculiar and universal human limitations. As has been said of Lem, knowledge is the real protagonist. Where Juliani really excels is in reading Kelvin's long and intricate summaries of fictional reports on the transient and incomprehensible phenomena of Solaris; it's "mimoids", "symmetriads" and "asymmetriads." One of the pleasures of science fiction is the "infodump", and Lem was a master of it, using it here to brilliantly satirical effect, but it's hard for someone not appreciative of the mode to endure. Juliani manages to inflect his reading with the narrator Kelvin's fascination, weariness, wryness and frustration, making it both interesting and comical, and showing how Solaris has been such a compelling and thoroughly intractable mystery to its investigators.
Lem's descriptions rather remind me of Mandelbulbs, by the way (3- or n-dimensional Mandelbrot sets).
Solaris was never an easy book to enjoy, but it was never meant to be. This presentation makes it a lively and compelling exercise. Highly recommended.
This book deserves its reputation as a first rate science fiction classic: at the same time it creates indelible rich images of another world and the sensation of remoteness that the reader or hearer will long remember, it transmits the limits of human understanding with the paint brush of ambiguity.
I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and its truly talented rendering by the narrator.
Thanks to Audible for commissioning this translation by Bill Johnston. With crisp clear language, it reads like a contemporary novel. The first half is downright frightening with ghosts aboard a 3 man space station. The Narrator, Alessandro Juliani, has a way with voices. Very expressive and spooky.
The alien lifeform is completely unique. I didn't see it coming. I loved this book. I don't know how I missed this sci-fi classic before, but I'm glad to have waited for this new and powerful edition.
This is the first full Audible Sci-Fi novel I have had the pleasure of listening to. If they are all produced as well as Solaris was, then I will be an Audible addict. Spending so much time in my work van, this is ideal.
The story itself is intriguing and draw me in very quickly. I was supposed to have this on the iPhone for a holiday by the pool (great idea not having to take my reading glasses to the pool) in October. Didn't make it.
The descriptions in the novel brought alive by the narration and talent of Alessandro Juliani where as rich as if imagined when reading the novel itself (which I have not done in this instance). While the story does bog down in places, it soon lifts again when he comes out of his musings over science or historical archives.
I have now downloaded a few more novels that I hope I can hold off listening too till October. But probably won't be able to.
I highly recommend this for fans of Sci-Fi. Great work Audible. Thank you.