The premise is that a scientist is sent to Solaris (a planet with a space station) only to discover that the 3 inhabitants which he was meant to meet have been reduced to two. Our main character, Kris Kelvin, arrives hoping to crack the enigma of the alien ocean which comprises the whole of the planet (and which is sentient). Once he arrives, strange and disturbing things start to happen such as resurrection of the dead into corporeal beings. Is the entity aware of its cruelty? Is it conducting an experiment on the scientists like the ones that it has been subjected to over the years? Have they actually gone mad?! The overarching message that Lem seems to be making is that humanity continually seeks out new worlds and beings only to impose their own values and agendas to further their reach. (Think colonialism of other cultures and peoples.) He likens it to religion and the search for redemption. (Sci-fi and philosophy go hand-in-hand more often than not as most lovers of the genre will know.) For me it's a 4/10 as I found myself putting it down and grabbing other things to read instead.
Now The Cyberiad completely got me back on board the Stanislaw Lem fan train. It was absolutely hysterical. This is a collection of short stories all about the adventures (or rather misadventures) of 2 (in)famous constructors as they make their way across the universe. (These journeys are called sallies which is a detail I adore.) Our heroes, Klapaucius and Trurl, are constantly trying to one-up each other not only with their creations but also with their status as constructors and benefactors to the cosmos. These robots are constructed for all kinds of constructive and inane reasons like storytelling, poetry, making war, etc. And the words that Lem makes up! I'm trying to think of a better word than delightful to describe my reading experience but honestly it was a treat to read a bit of this every night before bed. (If you don't laugh at the depiction of 'palefaces' i.e. humans then you have no sense of humor at all.) An absolute 10/10 for me. (And wait til you read the twist. O_O)
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub caught my eye simply for the novelty of the title and that bizarre cover. This book is difficult to sum up or even to rate as it truly has no discernible plot. Lest you dismiss it immediately because of this fact, let me assure you that there's much to recommend this title. The word play and circuitous path of our main character (who remains nameless) is satire at its finest. Espionage, counterespionage, and counter-counterespionage abound in The Building where our character has been given a very important Mission...if only he knew what it was. He is continually beset by obstacles in the form of bureaucrats, winding halls with nondescript doors, and instructions that keep vanishing. What would happen if humanity was forced to abandon its cities and move into an underground bunker? Would society, culture, and technology survive and continue to advance? Lem weaves a provocative tale of paranoia, confusion, and ultimately betrayal. 5/10 but would have been higher had there been a plot to follow.
What's Up Next: Exhalation by Ted Chiang
What I'm Currently Reading: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa