A spaceship with a six-man crew crash-lands on Eden, an unsurveyed planet. The first part of the book details the men's efforts to dig out and repair their ship, working at first with nothing more than their ingenuity and bare hands. Eventually, the crew begin to explore, and wander through a gorgeously evoked, haunting landscape - the first of many brilliantly conceived alien worlds from Lem's mature imagination. Amusingly, the three scientists on board - the Physicist, the Chemist and the Cyberneticist - are the minor characters, good mainly for emotional outbursts and comic relief, while the other three characters - the Captain, the Engineer and the Doctor - are the fleshed-out human beings who do most of the acting, thinking and arguing. The explorers come across an insane "factory" in which apparently useless products are manufactured and then destroyed; they witness what appears to be a horrific massacre; they film, from a distance, the activity in one of the aliens' cities; and they cause, quite inadvertently and with no intentions but the best, a fairly substantial amount of death, destruction and general harm. Finally, they are able to communicate with one of the aliens, who gives them some idea of the planet's social system and history. As you would expect in a Lem story, what's learned is far from certain and of dubious usefulness. Eden is a wholly original, beautifully written horror story that deserves to be far better known. The last line is one of the most moving, disturbing and subtly horrific I've seen, bearing out the grim irony of the novel's title and the planet's name. Written in 1959, two years before Lem's more famous book, Eden deserves to rank with Solaris as one of his greatest works.