This fine, new, direct-to-English translation of Solaris allows listeners a new opportunity to marvel at the way Stanisław Lem managed to pack so much into such a compact story. As well as being a gripping sci-fi mystery, his novel stands as a profound meditation on the limitations of knowledge and the impossibility of love, of truly knowing another: how a vast, cold galaxy can exist between two people. In how many relationships does the other turn out to be a projected hologram? At the book's heart is the dark and mysterious planet of Solaris: working out what it means is half the fun of the book. One thing is clear: the possibility it offers of alien contact represents "the hope for redemption", a Schopenhauerian longing to be rid of the endless cycle of want, need, and loss. In one passage, the main character notes with a touch of envy that, "automats that do not share mankind's original sin, and are so innocent that they carry out any command, to the point of destroying themselves". The motivating forces that have traditionally sustained mankind - love, relationships, belonging - are exposed as so much space debris. In a book that contains one of the most tragic love stories in modern literature, the idea of a love more powerful than death is "a lie, not ridiculous but futile".Alessandro Juliani is a veteran of television's Battlestar Galactica, though here it's a young, pre-parody William Shatner-as-Captain Kirk that his performance sometimes evokes: the same cool, clipped delivery and occasional eccentric choice of emphasis. If he occasionally under-serves the book's dread-filled poetry, his character studies clearly carry the wounds of their earlier lives: at first, his Kris is an opaque tough guy, coolly removed from the unfolding, terrible events, until he touchingly gives way in the end to an overwhelming sense of loss. His performance as Snout is a mini-masterpiece in feral intensity, an intelligence crushed by the immense weight of limbo. As Harey, caught in "apathetic, mindless suspension", he manages to make his voice unfocussed and passive, as if distilling the bottomless sadness of her self-awareness of her own unreality. It's also a strong tribute to his performance that he can carry the pages and pages of philosophising, argumentative theology, and semi-parodic scientific reports without coming across as didactic. What could easily drag the story to a standstill is, in this recording, compellingly conveyed as an essential part of Lem's heartfelt investigation into the painful limitations of human knowledge. Dafydd Phillips
At last, one of the world’s greatest works of science fiction is available - just as author Stanislaw Lem intended it.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Solaris, Audible, in cooperation with the Lem Estate, has commissioned a brand-new translation - complete for the first time, and the first ever directly from the original Polish to English. Beautifully narrated by Alessandro Juliani (Battlestar Galactica), Lem’s provocative novel comes alive for a new generation.
In Solaris, Kris Kelvin arrives on an orbiting research station to study the remarkable ocean that covers the planet’s surface. But his fellow scientists appear to be losing their grip on reality, plagued by physical manifestations of their repressed memories. When Kelvin’s long-dead wife suddenly reappears, he is forced to confront the pain of his past - while living a future that never was. Can Kelvin unlock the mystery of Solaris? Does he even want to?
©1961 Stanislaw Lem. Translation © 2011 by Barbara and Tomasz Lem (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Few are [Lem's] peers in poetic expression, in word play, and in imaginative and sophisticated sympathy." (Kurt Vonnegut)
"[Lem was] a giant of mid-20th-century science fiction, in a league with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick." (The New York Times)
"Juliani transmits Kelvin’s awe at Solaris’s red and blue dawns and makes his confusion palpable when he awakens one morning to find his long-dead wife seated across the room. Juliani’s performance is top-notch." (AudioFile)
I cannot agree at all with the other reviewers. "Solaris" may be considered to be a classic, but I don't think it should be described as science fiction, just because it was set on some other planet. For me, the theme was the difference between appearance and reality, and how the world is perceived by a disturbed mind. All along I expected an explanation to be forthcoming, like a mind-controlling alien influence, or something in the air, but it just fizzled out into nothing. It brought to mind the movie "Shutter Island".
However, the narration was the worst I have ever heard on an audio book. It turned a difficult-to-follow plot into an incomprehensible mish-mash. I couldn't understand anything the character Snout mumbled. The narrator swallowed many of his syllables, dropped his voice at inappropriate points, and was unable to articulate letters such as "R", almost as if he had a speech defect. Narrators should be aware that you don't lose the dramatic impact of a story if you e-nun-ciate clearly.
I have listened to books by Herburt, Hienlein and many others and one thing they all had in common they had a point. Whether it was just for the joy of writing or a political agenda or something else they had a point. My 3 year olds books are better then this. At least Lighting McQueen is a clear concept. A car that talks, that's cool.
Am I supposed to feel sorry for Kelvin that he has to deal with the things that haunt him. Granted this was written in another time and language so there might be something lost in translation. Real life is hard and has things that haunt us. Grow up and deal with it.
The character that dies before kelvin gets to the station was lucky, he got out of the book before I did.
Whats with the text book description of what sounds like a skin irritation.
This book might be a classic but it's not great and it's not even close to being in a class with the great Sci-Fi classics of all time.
This book is so bad that it makes me want to start writing. If this can get published my scribbles on napkins should be published. I have a great story about a boil that sings, I could get that published.
Awful, simply awful! The plot line was ponderous, some of the narrations void of any pretext that this isn’t how people, let alone scientists speak and the descriptions often times incomprehensible. Some of the dialog was far far from unbelievable, but I’m willing to concede that this may be the translation, but if not it was as if written by a 6th grade student for an English essay. I want to believe the Audible recommended it because it was some sort of new translation and the 50th anniversary and not because they believed it to be “one of the world’s greatest works of science fiction is available - just as author Stanislaw Lem intended it” I am very disappointed in Audible and will look at their recommendations with more of a jaded eye in the future. This is not a good book and certainly not a good audio book.
Hard to immerse into story. Technology outdated (of course written 1961) human condition/awareness story line syrupy and long in tooth. Good narration only reason I stuck with it.
What if we meet another intelligence and it is uncomprehensible, different in every way. What if love is impossible?
what do you get with an alien which the author defines as beyond human comprehension? A drawn out rambling of a story without any conclusions or even concrete hypothesis.
Nothing but positive thoughts on Lem's work. However, Juliani's performance goes a bit too far, for my taste. Character-voices are not just distinct, they're comical. The dry scientific tone of the narration (which I find suitable) gets traded for hysterical, breathy lady-imitations and a tittering British accent which are really just distracting.
The performance was amazing despite a few changes in the audio that made it seem like the narrator had changed.
the philosophical musings
2001: A Space Odyssey
The final reflections of the main character
Can't believe it was published in 1961!
Be warned, this is not an action movie
I'm no expert on life in the universe, but Lem's depiction of extraterrestrial life sounded plausible. So, if a friend were interested in this subject, I'd recommend the book. If he or she wanted an entertaining read, I wouldn't.
I wish the depiction of Solaris was suggested rather than painstakingly detailed. It was hard to follow all the scientific discourses. It felt like these meandering, jargon-filled passages comprised at least half the book.
He was by far the best thing about this. Were it not for his performance, I wouldn't have finished the book.
I'm not sure if inspired is the right word, but it did prompt me to do some internet research so I could fully understand what Lem was trying to say here.
I honestly wanted to like this book. I'm a huge PKD fan. Lem, I believe, said PKD is the best American novelist. So I'm automatically inclined to like Lem's work. PKD may not have the science correct, but he knows how to tell a story. His stories sail along, never finding any doldrums. This wasn't the case for me with Solaris.
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