For film lovers, Tarkovsky's Solaris sits up there with Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as ground-breaking classics and front runners of the true space age. But both films are well-known for being a bit opaque. Long shots of space and strange planetary surfaces. Not a lot of dialog. What's there to say?
So I was stunned to find Lem's story--and Julian's incredible narration of this new translation--to be so engaging, intimate, current and accessible. At the same time, the reality facing the newest arrival on Solaris Station is like a litmus test for one's sensitivity to horror. What's your Hari?
While appreciating Tarkovsky's film I was surprised by the technical depth Lem filled the planet of Solaris with and how well-tread he made the Station's halls feel, long before we ever made it into space. This and 2001 are indispensable for fans of the films and the sci-fi genre.
I found something oddly pleasant, albeit anachronistic, in listening to a narrated digital recording of a classic sci-fi novel wherein many discoveries on a distant planet far in the future are made in a library amongst the hand-written notes left by their predecessors.
I first heard about this book on Boing Boing and podcasts a couple years back. It sounded awesome to me. Dammit, where IS my jetpack? If you've been hiding for the last ten years perhaps there's a lot here still to find fresh. But much of these trails have been well mapped.
Worse, there's still futurism here disconnected from the cultural and social world that propels the subject. The zest for the Reasons Why at the beginning break down and pretty soon we're being regaled with stories of the absurd fantastic. So we're building houses on artificial islands in the Gulf? How's the market for that going? What's the environmental impact? Underwater hotels? The rooms exist but they're not doing brisk business.
In the meantime, James Cameron shoots to the bottom of the ocean in a torpedo sub.
Hopefully Wilson is working on a follow-up--rather than a new forward--that cuts a little deeper than this light compendium.
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