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Solaris Audiobook

Solaris: The Definitive Edition

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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

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  •  
    Hillel Bloomington, IN, United States 06-19-11
    Hillel Bloomington, IN, United States 06-19-11
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    "Good but not great"

    Wonderfully narrated -- actually one of the best narrators I've ever heard! So many voices were used that it was more like a radio show than a book reading. The story had a very good beginning but it began to drag after a while. Still good... it kept me reading, but I was waiting for more action that did not come. The end was o k a y . Just kind of petered off instead of a real conclusion but there was some interesting philosophy presented, so it was still good. The first and last chapters were the best.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lore SAN JOSE, CA, United States 10-06-13
    Lore SAN JOSE, CA, United States 10-06-13 Member Since 2008

    Fantasy/Sci-Fi Fan

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    "4 hours of good sci fi in a 7.5 hour listen."

    I read many of the reviews that Audible bubbles to the top and was persuaded to give this one a go. This book is called a classic and some of the other reviews dismiss certain criticisms as unwarranted. Well I am here to add my voice to the dissenters.

    First the positive. There is certainly an interesting story here about mankind's first contact with a new life form on the planet Solaris. This alien is an ocean and it is so different from our notion of life that it sparks hundreds of years of debate and becomes a new branch of science. We join the story as Kris Kelvin arrives at Solaris station and begins to try to solve the riddle.

    Kris meets the other scientists stationed on Solaris and it is obvious right away that something strange is going on. The interactions between the characters can be awkward at times but I can let that slide due to their questionable mental state and the fact that this book is a translation.

    However, strewn throughout the book are long periods of time when Kris is searching for clues and reads scientific books and journals that contain theories about Solaris. These range from the philosophical to the scientific. While it is impressive that Stanislaw Lem was able to create so much detail within his story it doesn't make it entertaining to listen to. These boring periods can be oppressive and if you are driving while listening then you risk falling asleep at the wheel. Alessandro Juliani does the characters well enough but he can't bring life to the dead sections of the book.

    Combine the long periods of boredom with an unsatisfying ending that feels incomplete and I just can't recommend this one.

    20 of 27 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcos 12-19-11
    Marcos 12-19-11 Member Since 2013
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    "Men's inability to deal with the unknown."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Solaris to be better than the print version?

    I have never read Solaris before but was aware of the criticism over the previous translated versions. My only experience with it were the two movies from 1972 and Clooney's 2002. This last one I strongly advise to skip or you are in danger of forsaken the story definitively.
    This new translation is excellent and, as in most cases, goes a lot deeper than 1972's picture.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Solaris is a wonderfully rich story of man's inability to deal with the unknown, both from outside and inside himself. From the unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the living ocean to the disastrous relationships developed with its creations, you are immerse on a elaborated plot that leads to an unsuspected conclusion.


    What about Alessandro Juliani’s performance did you like?

    Alessandro's performance is consistent and ads a lot of depth to the telling. He conducts you gracefully trough the book and make it almost impossible to stop listening.


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 03-11-12
    Jefferson 03-11-12 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    "Loving the Unknowable Alien"

    For well over a hundred years, earth scientists have been obsessed by the planet Solaris, or rather by the sentient ocean gelatinously covering it: observing, classifying, experimenting, contacting, analyzing, theorizing, proving, disproving, publishing, and perishing. Despite all that activity (Solaristics), humanity is no closer to understanding the alien life form. As the novel opens the psychologist narrator Kris Kelvin travels to the space station orbiting the alien world to join three scientists in studying Solaris.

    If Lem???s novel were a typical science fiction alien contact story, we might expect Kelvin to take stock of the situation, to glean useful clues from the station???s extensive Solaristics library, to energize his colleagues, and then, by making a conceptual breakthrough and utilizing some technological gadgets, to comprehend the oceanic alien and pacify it (if it is inimical) or cooperate with it (if it is friendly). Lem, however, has no interest in telling such a comforting story.

    Instead, when Kelvin arrives at the station he finds his colleagues strangely demoralized and anti-social. Disturbed, he skims through various Solaristics tomes, but only confirms the impossible and arrogant folly of the human project to understand a truly alien life form. And then he, like his colleagues, is visited by an unexpected ???Guest??? or ???Ghost,??? a simulacrum of the most important person from his past, apparently sent by the ocean. Is the alien experimenting on the humans? Torturing them? Giving them a gift? Reacting reflexively to their experiments? Communicating with them? The only thing Kelvin knows for sure is that the sentient ocean has read the depths of his mind to find there his strongest guilt and grief.

    Solaris reminds us that for all the appeal of space exploration and for all we learn about the universe therein, we may never understand the labyrinthine depths of the human mind; that we can never escape the physical limits of our perception of ourselves and others; and that love is never easy.

    The ocean of Solaris is sublime, with beautiful and awesome structures and behaviors. And though my mind did wander during some of the summaries of the many different Solaristics trends and schools, and though I wish the reader Alessandro Juliani (who does a great Snaut and a fine Harey) could have read Kelvin???s voice with more gravitas, I am glad to have listened to this singular, majestic, and moving novel.

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joan YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY, United States 03-19-16
    joan YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY, United States 03-19-16 Member Since 2016

    74 y o avid reader using either my eyes or ears. I make earrings that I donate to shelters and while I work, I listen to wonderful books

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    "details details details"

    a good story weighed down with too many unnecessary details. Too bad. I got through about half, then gave up trying to sort out story from blah blah blah

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    pcpeggs 03-13-16
    pcpeggs 03-13-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Meh...."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    Some may enjoy the loooooooonnnnnggggggg descriptions of Solaris. There are almost full chapters devoted to talking about formations on the planet. It bored me to tears. Its sad saying that, because the book just grabbed me right from the beginning.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The start of the book was quite enthralling. It had a twinge of mystery, world building, and character development that really was quite satisfying.

    The least interesting - as I mentioned above - was the ad nauseam descriptions of Solaris formations. I would fast forward through minutes and minutes of descriptions, and not miss a single bit of plot.


    Have you listened to any of Alessandro Juliani’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was Solaris worth the listening time?

    Some have said it is great...a staple to read. I disagree. I felt there was a lot of potential, but that it was wasted.


    Any additional comments?

    Meh - don't listen to the hype - I felt like a huge chunk could have been cut, and we would have lost nothing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Yoshida 02-22-14
    A. Yoshida 02-22-14
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    "For fans of Stanislaw Lem"

    I saw there were a lot of rave reviews for this book. It seems to be from fans who were familiar with the movies and probably the author's other books (which would have given them more insights into this book upon re-reading). Having only read the book, I didn't find it engaging. I thought the dialogue was awkward at times. It could be that the intent didn't translate well from Polish to English or because it was written in 1961 and has become dated. As a story, I think the book is lacking. For example, the focus is around the main character Kelvin and the physical manifestation of his "guest" shortly after he arrives on the planet. The other two characters are also facing their own of past regrets and guilts. The book teases the readers with moments where the other two characters are struggling to contain their "guests," but it is never revealed who they are. This left an unsatisfactory feeling. It's as if the author spent all his energy creating the dead lover of Kelvin and trying to unveil the part he played in her death. And he couldn't think of anything else to create for the other two shipmates. The book also spent more time describing the science that emerged from studying Solaris (and all the scientific jargon that evolved) than in developing the characters.

    The book is interesting from a philosophical perspective. Humanity is arrogant in thinking that it can study and understand an alien life when we don't even understand ourselves. Also it appears that the planet Solaris could be one giant life form. Humanity's attempt to make contact with it would be like an ant trying to make contact with an elephant.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anandasubramanian 10-24-13 Member Since 2009

    Love excellent narrators like Ray Porter. Love the Joe Ledger series.

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    "Excellent performance. Story is meandering."

    Very good performance by narrators. Could feel the bright heat and light of the fierce blue sun and also the orange glow of the deep red sun.
    Each actor is narrated well, especially the scene with Liquid Oxygen.
    The book itself seems meandering too much. It takes random walks into past and leaves us stranded there for long time.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeanne Wakefield, RI, United States 10-09-13
    Jeanne Wakefield, RI, United States 10-09-13 Member Since 2013
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    "I can't believe I listened to the whole thing :o("
    Would you try another book from Stanislaw Lem and Bill Johnston (translator) and/or Alessandro Juliani?

    Juliani is excellent. His narration is the only reason I continued to listen. Sorry Stanislaw, stay in the lab.


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

    No.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    The last sentence.


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

    The narration and possibily the concept of a global sized entity.


    Any additional comments?

    I waited and waited for the story to develop. All I heard was pontification of nonsense. The storyline could be easily condensed into one 20-30 minute short story. Instead we are exposed to endless theorms of theorems. I listen for entertainment. This was torture.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 01-31-13
    Saman Houston, TX, United States 01-31-13 Member Since 2010

    sam_perera

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    "Engrossing."

    I remember many years ago as a child, watching the Russian movie Solaris by director Andrey Tarkovskiy. To tell you the truth, I really did not understand it one little bit. It was a confusing film that nearly put me to sleep. It was hard to grasp and I had a very difficult time understanding the concepts around the ocean and its manifestations. But the story lingered in my mind thereafter and I knew that one day I would have to read Stanislaw Lem’s novel to understand it as an adult. Finally I got to listen to this incredible novel. This is one of the very best science fiction novels ever written. Lem really studies our inner soul and its interaction with the impossible. As you engross yourself in the novel, do not be disappointed that there is no final answer to the mystery of the ocean, but marvel in the way he entices you to answer the questions the protagonist struggles through. What would you do in an event like this? That is really what Lem is asking of you … A must read!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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  • Kat Orphanides
    London, UK
    10/3/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Seminal SF suffering from patchy narration"

    Solaris is - as its reputation indicates - an introspective work. It's first and foremost a contemplation of the futility of any human attempt to communicate with a truly alien being. Most of the meat of the narrative is protagonist Dr Kris Kelvin's relationship with his own desires and personal history, set against the backdrop of a research station on an impossibly alien world.

    Narrator Alessandro Juliani does a good job of portraying Kelvin and his fellow scientists, but the book is seriously let down by his depiction of Harey, a woman from Kelvin's past who appears on the research station without explanation, and whose presence only leads to deeper mysteries.

    The very quiet and unbearably whining voice Juliani gives her was something I found increasingly annoying as the book went on, and it had a negative impact on my enjoyment of the novel, detracting from Harey's complex characterisation.

    Translator Bill Johnston has done an outstanding job. He's avoided the problems and changes to the Polish original found in older English editions of the text, which Lem was very critical of. Johnston has in the process also avoided an instance of unnecessarily racist language which appears in the mediocre Kilmartin/Cox translation, but has done so without compromising Lem's harsh characterisation of Kelvin and his fellow scientists, their prejudices and the pettiness of their desires.

    Solaris is one of the pillars of the SF canon, and this translation makes for an excellent edition, if you can just get past Harey's voice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Daniel
    5/30/15
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Dull"
    Would you try another book written by Stanislaw Lem and Bill Johnston (translator) or narrated by Alessandro Juliani?

    The author probably no, the narrator yes.


    Has Solaris put you off other books in this genre?

    No


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    Probably the beginning hour or two. For me it all went down hill from there.


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

    I found it ok but not exceptional,


    Any additional comments?

    I went in with high hopes but ultimately found it dull and slow. I found myself drifting off for whole chapters. i listened to the end hoping it would get better, it diddnt.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    UK
    3/28/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Philosophical SF"

    A pessimistic view of communication with an alien intelligence. Sombre, serious, and weighty. Excellent narrator.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • spencerhudson
    1/27/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Glad to of read the book - more detail than film"

    More detail than film and more haunting. Well recommended as a better alternative to the film. It's less "commercial" and far more interesting.

    But it ends and leaves more questions ... But isn't that just what Solaris is ... A mystery of incomprehensible size and reasoning

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Rizwan
    1/14/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great"

    Excellent audiobook. True science fiction with a depth most can only aspire to. The only thing that I have no

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Verner
    Camberley, United Kingdom
    12/7/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Judge not for you might be judged - maybe?"
    Would you listen to Solaris again? Why?

    Yes. The sequence of reveals made me want to see if it was self-consistent.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The alien. It seemed to have something to say and significantly more presence than the human characters.


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    Launch into space. It was decent bit of action with some tension.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    No. I thought the main character was particularly heartless for someone portrayed as "missing something from his life".


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • James
    Chester, United Kingdom
    7/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Enthralling"

    As book, as audio, as film and film again, Solaris casts a mythic spell. There is something in the idea of it that appeals to one's sense of longing and home and understanding of the past that works at an almost dream-like level. The deadpan reading works well here; far from emphatic or actorly, like the prose itself, its ordinariness is part of its extraordinary hypnotic power

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Mr. C. Horsfall
    11/12/11
    Overall
    "Didn't like it"

    It was confusing, drawn out and I really wanted it to end, not because I enjoyed it, but I wanted to get on to a more enjoyable book.

    3 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Chris
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    7/21/11
    Overall
    "ok but is a bit self indulgent"

    I know this is an icon, but I found it a bit too self indulgent with some of the histories of made up theories. The end was a so what! I doesn't so much finish as fade away.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Piano man 2007
    Europe
    8/12/11
    Overall
    "No suspense"

    This might be a classic, but the writer goes on and on about the "history" of the actual story... After a while I got really bored. There's no suspense and the story doesn't lift off. It was probably a cult book at it's time, but those days are over...

    The narrator is OK

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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