I tend to read reviews before I buy a book if it's something I'm not sure about. I've been wanting to read Solaris for ages, so I didn't bother with reviews when this became available. If I had read the reviews, I might have skipped it. While many are positive, there are also a number of negative reviews with some pretty consistent criticisms.
In response that there are long periods of technical description that serve no purpose to the story: I can understand where that sentiment is coming from, but I think these sections are necessary and serve the story in the following ways. For one, they perpetuate the mystery of the planet. Whenever this would happen, I would try to imagine what they were describing. If you've ever stared out at the ocean in awe of the size and mystery of it, this is the type of feeling these sections evoke. It also acts as foreshadowing. The first part that describes the unique properties of Solaris also sets the stage for the paranoia and strange encounters the main character deals with when he first lands on the station. The following descriptions of strange phenomona on the planet hint at the bizarre circumstances on the station, etc. It's subtle, but for me it definitely shaped the way I thought about what was happening in the story. If it wasn't there, one might think this was a ghost story, or a hallucination.
In response to the criticism that the characters do not react realistically, or like scientists: While this is true at times, I think the reviewers are dismissing the environment that these people are in. Like I mentioned above, the characters are experiencing such bizarre events that the first thoughts one might have are that they are hallucinating or dreaming. Two characters have been living like that, the other is suddenly thrust into it. I don't think it's fair to criticize their reactions as being unrealistic when what they are experiencing is irrational.
Also, I wish I could give 6 stars to the narrator, Alessando Juliani. He gave a magnificent performance, especially with the wife, Harey. I'm always nervous when male narrators attempt female voices, but this was done masterfully.
This story is about humans trying to interact with something that is so utterly alien that we can't even understand how it exists. It's about relationships, specifically the complicated one between Kelvin and his wife, but also between humanity and Solaris. Can you even assign motives to such a being? Is it even alive? I was genuinely surprised by the finesse and emotional depth of this book. I was also frequently swept up in the majesty and fear of the living ocean as described in the book. It was a truly unique experience, and a real treat to listen to. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I can't recommend this book highly enough.
I'm not sure my score makes sense, but I'll see if I can explain it.
I have two problems with the story. The first is the journal style. I was originally drawn to the book because of this aspect, but I realized about a third of the way through that it basically guaranteed that nothing TOO bad would happen to the main character. Anything life threatening happened in the past, and the character is well enough to write it all down now. While it doesn't really detract much from the story, it did temper some of my excitement when the protagonists got in a tough spot. My other disappointment was the end of the book. I won't give anything away, but I could see the direction it was heading and found it a little anticlimactic
My problem with the reading was mostly personal, I think. Something about the narrator just didn't click with me. The reading reminded me a lot of I Am Legend, which may have been part of the problem. I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Legend, so this seems somehow derivative of that, and therefore inferior. This is purely personal, though. I still enjoyed the performance, and would recommend it to others.
Those critiques notwithstanding, I really enjoyed the book. The protagonist is a nice guy, just trying to survive, and cope with the radically changed world he finds himself in. If you're a fan of this genre, then this is a no-brainer. You'll love it even if you agree with the flaws I mentioned. Ultimately, that's how I felt as I put it down. While I had issues with the story and reading, I walked away having thoroughly enjoyed the book, which is why I rated it higher than the average of the story and performance scores. Don't let my nitpicking talk you out of giving this book a chance.
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