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Mortal Engines Paperback – May 15, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reissue edition (May 15, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156621614
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156621618
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,033 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Polish

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.

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

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He speaks of the human condition in his own unique way.
Jason A. Newman
The first dozen stories in this book are brief, amusing, and very clever.
wiredweird
Styles vary from fairy tales to conventional short story, to parables.
Israel Ramirez

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
The first dozen stories in this book are brief, amusing, and very clever. Most of them start in the traditions of fairy tales, with bold knights, beautiful princesses, powerful kings, and deadly dragons. As in traditional fairy tales, some describe great quests, while others narrate hubris and downfall. The difference is that every story is peopled (if you'll pardon the term) by robots. It creates a grand setting for Lem's adventures and warmly humorous inversion of all the old storytelling.

The final two stories, though, are the real gems of this collection. They are longer, they feature humans as well as robots, and are serious, even somber in tone. One is told by a human, part of the party that has to hunt down a dangerous robot across the stark surface of the moon. The teller finds the rogue in the end and fells it, but something in that last moment turns it from victory into completion of a much more ambiguous kind. The final story, "The Mask," is a sensitive look into a man-made mind. It conveys real complexity in the robot's sense of its own life. One of the story's many readings is a warning that, even if the feelings are carried in metal cases, they're as real to the minds feeling them as ours are to us. Creating a mind that can feel such feelings imposes a responsibility on the creator - a responsibility not met in this chilling story.

This is Lem at his best, and his best is very good. The happy satire of the first stories is some of Lem's most amusing. The conjecture in the last story is some of his darkest. The set as a whole shows Lem's range as a writer, even within the constraints that unify this wonderful collection.

//wiredweird
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on November 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title of this assembly of stories is the translator's clever triple pun: an allusion to Othello, "mortal engines" are manmade, impermanent, and sometimes deadly machines--robots, to be exact. Included are all the tales from Lem's "Fables for Robots" and three other stories ("The Sanatorium of Dr. Vliperdius," "The Hunt," and "The Mask") that double the size of the book.

The fables are like--well, fables. That is, the prose style resembles Aesop or Andersen ("Once there lived..."); the narrative recounts long-ago events; and each tale presents a message--or, at least, a lesson for us humans disguised as a moral for them robots. These eleven shorts recall Borges (or even Poe) at his most playful, but read in sequence they tend to become a tad formulaic (several robots are sent on a mission; each fails, but the last one succeeds). And if you're a lover of science jokes, these stories will be your playground; Lem packs references to chemistry, physics, geology, computer science, and electronics--often in the same sentence: "self-motes came from distant lands, like the two Automatts, vector-victors in a hundred battles, or like Prostheseus, constructionist par excellence, who never went anywhere without two spark absorbers, one black, the other silver; and there was Arbitron Cosmoski, all built of protocrystals and svelte as a spire...."

If, like me, you prefer a little more story and a little less pun, you'll find that the gems of the book are the three bonus tracks. The last two, in particular, are among the best I've ever read by Lem, and have nothing in common with the fables other than the automaton theme. "The Hunt" is a rollicking adventure story featuring Lem's famous alter ego, Pirx the Pilot, on a mission to destroy a homicidal robot.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Rhys Hughes on June 6, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is surely one of the greatest collections of 'linked short-stories' ever written -- it matches Calvino's COSMICOMICS and Borges' LABYRINTHS. Lem is a total genius. A writer of playful little fables that are also philosophically profound (and logically consistent). This book is a brilliant companion to Lem's THE CYBERIAD, with which it shares many themes and ideas. Lem has a beautiful style: he can make engineering terms sound poetic. His rigorously modern metaphors are as original as those of J.G. Ballard, but more varied and lyrical. For Lem, the Periodic Table is an unwritten poem. This book is the final and true ode, and each line is a fantastic, fabulous, incredible story. I give this book 200,000,000 stars. And that's only because I'm not feeling so generous today. It probably deserves A GOOGOLPLEX (1 to the power of 100 raised to the power of 1 to the power of 100) of stars. At least.
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