Written when Poland was under the grip of Communism, "The Futurological Congress" is a powerful parable of a totalitarian state that uses psychotropic drugs not only to subdue its citizens but also to make them believe things are better than they are. The first third of the book reads almost like an adventure story: Ijon Tichy is attending a convention of futurologists in Central America, when he and his colleagues are caught up in a bizarre coup d`etat. When Tichy's cryogenically frozen corpse is reanimated decades later, the entire overpopulated world is hooked on drugs.
Unlike most pieces of dystopian fiction, Lem's novel is funny and brainy rather than depressing and catastrophic, but it is still scarily prophetic. At times, though, the prose threatens to collapse into a pun-laden Physician's Desk Reference for the Year 2039: "they give the children throttlepops, then develop their character with opinionates, uncompromil, rebellium, allaying their passions with sordidan and practicol; no police, and who needs them when you have constabuline. . . ?" (These passages must have been a nightmare to translate and, remarkably, they never lose their fluency.) But Lem keeps the reader's interest by alternating his pharmocological laundry lists with clever plot twists and bizarre visions, and the novel's pace continuously accelerates until its frenzied, over-the-top climax.