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Solaris: The Definitive Edition | [Stanislaw Lem, Bill Johnston (translator)]

Solaris: The Definitive Edition

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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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.

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (2581 )
5 star
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3.8 (2149 )
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Story
4.1 (2128 )
5 star
 (857)
4 star
 (832)
3 star
 (332)
2 star
 (77)
1 star
 (30)
Performance
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  •  
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 07-01-12
    Holly Helscher Cincinnati 07-01-12 Member Since 2012

    Holly

    HELPFUL VOTES
    639
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    174
    99
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    106
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Skip It"
    Would you try another book from Stanislaw Lem and Bill Johnston (translator) and/or Alessandro Juliani?

    Not at all. The plot was exceedingly slow. I'm not even sure the plot existed.


    Has Solaris turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was fine. It was the book that was poorly written.


    What character would you cut from Solaris?

    All of them.


    Any additional comments?

    This is a Swedish author riding on the coat tails of the current attention to this newest group of writers. It's unfortunate because he simply can't deliver.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arlene Boulder, CO, United States 01-30-12
    Arlene Boulder, CO, United States 01-30-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
    6
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    3
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Engrossing, but missing something"
    What did you like best about Solaris? What did you like least?

    I liked the relationships. The descriptions of the phenomena I found tedious.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    I didn't know it was the ending. That was my biggest problem with the book.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I enjoyed the conversations between the two men.


    Did Solaris inspire you to do anything?

    Try other types of books.


    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Todd The Woodlands, TX, United States 01-10-12
    Todd The Woodlands, TX, United States 01-10-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    54
    5
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    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "eh."

    The story while much hyped didn't really impress me in any way. There was no wow moment for me and I've seen much better handling in the SF realm of planet size intelligences.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    11-25-11
    11-25-11 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    8
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "From a fringe science fiction fan -"

    As with many science fiction books, the focus is on the science and not the character development. None of the people felt real. The story was competently told, but with so much scientific complexity, that at times I got lost in the details. I still kept listening, as I really wanted to know what would eventually happen, and the ending left me somewhat satisfied. Perhaps a hard core science fiction reader would have understood it all better.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Waldman 08-12-11 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    4
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "Is it just me?"

    Maybe it's just me, but I couldn't get through it. I'd never heard of this book before, but I've read and enjoyed a lot of classic sci-fi, so I bought it. I thought it was an average Star Trek episode painfully dragged out to 7 + mind-numbing hours. I finally quit after 4 1/2, so this book may have the greatest ending of all time, but I'll never know. As for the narrator, his voice alternates between a barely audible whisper and full-on yelling, so it's almost impossible to listen in the car.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Conrad Windsor, ON, Canada 08-08-11
    Conrad Windsor, ON, Canada 08-08-11 Listener Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
    13
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    9
    8
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "I'm still scratching my head"

    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.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tommy Rosamond, CA, United States 07-21-11
    Tommy Rosamond, CA, United States 07-21-11 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    13
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    "Just because it's old does not make it great."

    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.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    FjHarty Washington State 07-05-11
    FjHarty Washington State 07-05-11 Member Since 2015

    Frank

    HELPFUL VOTES
    12
    ratings
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    9
    7
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    0
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    Overall
    "Awful"

    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.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chanel Mountain View, AR, United States 11-15-13
    Chanel Mountain View, AR, United States 11-15-13 Member Since 2013
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    33
    7
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Couldn't make it to the end"
    What would have made Solaris better?

    The person who read this book was so boring I couldn't get into it. It was very slow and jumped around a little bit. Maybe if it was read by someone else I could have gotten into it more. I didn't even make it halfway before I stopped trying.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Stanislaw Lem and Bill Johnston (translator) again?

    Probably not.


    What didn’t you like about Alessandro Juliani’s performance?

    Very boring and all the characters sounded the same. It was hard to tell when he was talk for which character.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Um, George Clooney plays in the movie?


    Any additional comments?

    Don't waste your time. Its probably the only book Ive ever said this about, but...... Skip the book and watch the movie!!!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Krystal 09-16-13
    Krystal 09-16-13 Member Since 2014
    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    59
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Why didn't I just walk away..."
    Would you try another book from Stanislaw Lem and Bill Johnston (translator) and/or Alessandro Juliani?

    No way...


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    Narration was great. Story was not for me.


    What character would you cut from Solaris?

    I committed an hour and 45 minutes to this boring book, and I can't name one character.


    Any additional comments?

    Maybe it gets better if you hear the whole book. I gave it almost two hours. But I'm done wasting my time. This book is not for me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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