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Imaginary Magnitude Paperback – October 28, 1985


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 28, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156441802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156441803
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

In A Perfect Vacuum (1979), Leto offered a collection of reviews of nonexistent books. Here, in a companion book of sorts, he concocts introductions to nonexistent books, complete with sample pages, plus an introduction to introductions in general. (It first appeared in Polish in 1973.) And each entry displays a different facet of the formidable Lem talent. The first introduction concerns a bizarre volume of pornographic soft-focus X-ray plates. Next, with deadpan glee, Lem presents a scientist breeding bacteria that communicate in Morse code and foretell the future. A treatise on computer-generated literature includes machine-neologisms like "horseman" (centaur) and "piglet" (a filthy rooming house). There's a wildly funny sales pitch for Vestrand's Extelopedia in 44 Magnetomes: a "Prognostic-Aim Encyclopedia with Maximal Forereach in Time" which "contains information on History as it is going to happen"; not only that, but "at the sound of your voice, the appropriate Magnetome slips off the shelf, TURNS its own pages, and STOPS at the desired entry." Lastly, at his most challenging, Lem describes Golem XIV, a super-computer commissioned by the Pentagon to handle all military matters. Golem decides it doesn't want the job ("the best guarantee of peace is universal disarmament"), and instead settles down at MIT to deliver a set of devastating lectures on humanity's shortcomings; finally, then, its intelligence having progressed beyond human comprehension, Golem destroys itself. Don't look for stories, here, or fiction in any orthodox sense - but this is weirdly satisfying entertainment, with the remarkable Lem variously at his profound, provocative, or comic best. (Kirkus Reviews)

Language Notes

Text: English, Polish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey S. Bennion on September 4, 1998
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was my introduction to Stanislaw Lem, which is ironic, because this is a book consisting only of introductions of other (imaginary) books. I found it completely by accident on the bargain rack, and I don't know why I bought it. But I did, and I'm certainly glad. When I started reading him, I said to myself, "What *is* this?" and found it all very bizarre. But Lem is one of those rare writers who makes you feel smarter just for having read him. For all that, this book is not only fascinating, but surprisingly funny at times. (How do you write an introduction to a book of introductions?) And for being so fanciful, Lem's discussions are surprisingly relevant.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Alex Kroll on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Imaginary Magnitudes" is a forceful, blackly humorous introduction to the irreducible mystery that powers Stanislaw Lem's work. Composed of introductions to works of non-fiction and literature to appear sometime in the coming century, one can only marvel at the breadth of imagination involved as well as the smoothness and cleverness of the translation from the Polish. The lectures of GOLEM XIV are the diadem of this collection, adumbrating most of the earlier prefaces in one vast, misanthropic razz of humankind by a very advanced (but still very humanlike), very disillusioned defense-management computer -- sort of a HAL9000 without the homicidal (or genocidal) impulse. I never have a copy of this book because I always give it away to people -- it is that good. Like most of Lem's work, it is where literature and SF become indistinguishable. Lem ranks with Clarke, Asimov, Herbert and Dick in the SF pantheon.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
Though it wasn't the most entertaining book of Lem's, it definitely gives the best span of his talents of any that I've yet read. We get the simply goofy in the first couple bits, and the hard-core philosophical in the GOLEM lectures. This is an excellent survey of Lem's talent, but the individual parts are not his best. The humorous bits are certainly not "Cyberiad" or "Star Diaries" quality, but they are good nonetheless. The GOLEM stuff is a bit dry, but very intruiging. Overall quite good stuff, so it gets 4 stars. Mediocre Lem though.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wendt on February 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Whereas with "A Perfect Vacuum" Lem wrote reviews of fictional books, here he writes introductions to different fictional books. You get some of his more straightforward philosophy with "Golem XIV," typical Lem cleverness with "Necrobes" and sheer, amazing, mind-blowing virtuosity with "Eruntics," probably his single most impressive piece of short fiction. This "story" alone is worth the price of admission. Ranking near the Tichy stories, with plenty of distance between "The Cyberiad" on one side and "Solaris" on the other, on the fun and ponderousnness scales. Among his best.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1996
Format: Paperback
-----I've been a fan of Stanislaw Lem ever since someone forced me to
read something of his, and I found out what a unique and brilliant man he
is. _Imaginary Magnitude_ is easily as original a work as anything he's
written; If you're the type of person who skips Introductions(I am), you
could easily become confused by this book unless you've read this
warning; --the book /consists/ of introductions!
------------------------------------------------
-----_Imaginary Magnitude_ is a collection of excerpts of novels that
have yet to be. Specifically, it's a collection of the /introductions/ of
the to-be-written novels.. --and, the explanations of the subject matter
of these books are both fascinating, philisophical, and ocassionally
whimsical. From the introductions of the instantly-updated encyclopedia
(if the words start to look blurry, close your eyes, pause a moment, and
start over--it's being rewritten), to the methods for making intelligent
microorganisms(if they can out-evolve our poisons, they can out-evolve
our intelligence tests.), this book contains a lot of food for thought..
--this science-fiction isn't for preteens.. ..but, the effort spent in
the reading is well rewarded.
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By S. Seall on August 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
Although each selection is interesting, GOLEM XIV is the read of choice here.

In keeping with the theme of the volume, included are a foreword, introduction, lectures to mankind from the eponymous intelligent entity and also an afterword, all to encompass the story of an imagined arms race of artificial intelligence, resulting in the escape and exit of its ultimate products.

There is even a helpful diagram in the previous selection (sample pages from an imaginary future “Extelopedia”) showing the linguistic evolution of those artificially intelligent entities and how the thresholds limiting mankind are to be inevitably exceeded.

I've resorted to that diagram, hauntingly similar to the one depicting the space of possible typographical number theory strings in Hofstadter's EGB masterpiece illustrating Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, to help better undergird my occasional rants on our potential collective destiny to close friends and selected family members. As a side note, the diagram in de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man on convergence to Omega is probably a bit more helpful, hopeful and optimistic along these lines.

At any rate, GOLEM XIV is compelling and mesmerizing, from a talent working in a time and place of undoubtedly daunting constraints, and who certainly doesn't seem to be either fully or fairly recognized to this day. I’ve often hoped the folks in Stockholm might eventually take heed.
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