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His Master's Voice Paperback – November 25, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 1 edition (November 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810117312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810117310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I would recommend [His Master's Voice] urgently to anyone in need of a taste of nobility." --New York Times Book Review

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Polish

More About the Author

Stanislaw Lem is the most widely translated and best known science fiction author writing outside of the English language. Winner of the Kafka Prize, he is a contributor to many magazines, including the New Yorker, and he is the author of numerous works, including Solaris.

Customer Reviews

So far, great lengthy descriptions.
RonSonntag
In this respect the work could be regarded as an accurate Swiftian satire.
Quinton Fox
Lem's bibliography cosnists of a great variety of books.
Andrzej Sroka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By chris romano on February 20, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow. HIS MASTER'S VOICE, as others have alluded, it's an incredibly intelligent read. Thick in it's diction, it demands your attention, to say the least. Admittedly, I had a difficult time with the first 50 pages or so, but I became completely engrossed by the halfway point.
Told in essentially diary format, HMV tells the story of one scientist's involvement in a secret goverment project established to decipher what appears to be a message from possibly superior, intelligent life. While most scientists spiral their theories into the fantastic, ours manages to poke sensible holes in each assertion...unfortunately escalating the Project's sense of hopelessness and ineptitude along the way.
Somehow, the scientists manage to produce possibly random effects from the recorded signal, but what does it all mean in the grander scheme? It's a wonderful moment when the main character finallly establishes his own theory of the signal, the effect, and his own short-comings.
I loved it.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By "professorguy" on February 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you're familiar with Lem, you know he can dash off deep insights as asides. Now imagine his intellect focused on what it means to be human trying to understand the universe. A masterpiece.
This is not his best science fiction (Fiasco gets that honor) nor his most revealing psychological work (ironically that's Cyberiad). It doesn't explore technology to the greatest extent (try the Golem lectures). However, it may stand as simply the most important work of fiction of the information age.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Robert L. Brockett on July 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Stanislaw Lem's HIS MASTER'S VOICE is a masterful work with issues. The story, simple on its face and straightforward enough, has an alien message sent via neutrino particle waves being intercepted by mid-20th Century humankind at the height of the Cold War. An ever-growing army of scientists from every conceivable discipline are gathered in the desert (think Manhattan Project) to decode the thing. This formidable assemblage quickly begins to resemble nothing so much as the Biblical Tower of Babel. Agendas are on parade, most noticeably that of the American military, always on the lookout for a new mega-weapon (they nearly get their wish). In the end, nothing is resolved and we are left with far more questions than answers. (Beware: some of those questions are themselves quite remarkable, with the power to twist the average mind into an intellectual pretzel overnight.)

What Lem really gets right here is practically all in the Introduction, a stellar piece that had me jotting quotes on bookmarks. The "story," such as it is, doesn't really get going until about the second chapter. Essentially, the depths of human intellectual limitations are mined throughout. Lem's deft use of the desertscape serves to remind us of our hopelessly remote place in the universe and of the sheer vastness of space. Lonesome, indeed.

Where the book goes wrong is in Lem's basic approach. Rendered as a sort of posthumous epistolic diary, there is scant dialogue and very little action. A more dramatic approach would have saved HMV from its utter dryness. My guess is, this time around, Lem only wished a room with enough scale in which to park his ideas, and this he has done to the point where too much of the time the piece resembles more a work of philosophy than fiction.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 1996
Format: Paperback
A synthetic signal from outer space is detected.
In Sagan's "Contact", the signal
encodes plans for a spaceship; here it's not so simple.
The signal seems to carry many levels of meaning,
each one more bizarre and mind-boggling than the last.
Lem, as always, weaves together ideas from the fringes
of modern science. He also explores the human aspects
of scientific research.

This book is not light reading.
Many parts require a mental effort like, say,
that needed to play chess.
This can be irritating, even infuriating.
For readers are up to the task, however,
the book rewards the effort many times over.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
HMV is a very heavy read. Not in its weight but in its content.
This story reads more like philosophy than sci-fi so I can understand if people struggle with it.
Another point is that nothing is really ever solved in HMV. Just like the scientists trying to understand the message from the stars, the reader is left with the same frustration because we are told the outcome in the first few pages of HMV; defeat.
The message that Mankind has stumbled upon is an enigma so complex it would be like explaining the laws of physics to a baboon. The slight progress man does make is so subjective that it can't be considered true progress at all.
I would recommend HMV only to avid Lem fan's and to the others I would point in the direction of Fiasco, Solaris, or The Invincible.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 8, 1998
Format: Paperback
If you ever happened to watch the misfortune that is the movie "Contact" (I have to admit that I have not read Carl Sagan's book, but I do hope it was better than the movie), know that this book deals with many of the same topics. But, if "Contact" is a kindergarten-level treatment of the topics in question, "His Master"s Voice" is a PhD-level treatment. A must for anyone for who likes science fiction to be more than just badly written fantasy with a few techie terms thrown in.
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