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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ijon Tichy rules!
My understanding is that the three books featuring space traveller Ijon Tichy were originally published in Polish in a single volume (THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, THE STAR DIARIES, and MEMOIRS OF A SPACE TRAVELLER). If so, I would insist that that has to be one of the ten greatest science fiction books ever published. The highpoint of the Tichy tales is THE FUTUROLOGICAL...
Published on March 14, 1998 by Robert Moore

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Farcical sketches and intellectual brainteasers
If Borges had written "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," it might have resembled "The Star Diaries." Not really a novel, this hit-and-miss collection (mostly hits) features randomly ordered and thematically unlinked space journeys by Ijon Tichy, who also stars in the far more accessible "Futorological Congress."

Even though...
Published on November 17, 2002 by D. Cloyce Smith


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ijon Tichy rules!, March 14, 1998
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
My understanding is that the three books featuring space traveller Ijon Tichy were originally published in Polish in a single volume (THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, THE STAR DIARIES, and MEMOIRS OF A SPACE TRAVELLER). If so, I would insist that that has to be one of the ten greatest science fiction books ever published. The highpoint of the Tichy tales is THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, which is published as a separate book in English, but the stories in THE STAR DIARIES are very nearly as good (the remnants were published in the MEMOIRS). Essential reading. They come across as some demonic blend of Italo Calvino, Escher, and Groucho Marx. Most sci-fi writing is deeply derivative from previous writers, but Stanislaw Lem is possibly the most original sci-fi writer of the past forty years. I am one of those who believe that Lem should have received serious consideration for a Nobel Prize.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best!, May 14, 2005
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Vahania63 (Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
The best book from Ijon Tichy series. The set of stories is the best I read from this series. The stories, written in various years, show how diverse Lem is. Some of the themes he touches here are very serious, e.g.planet with the 'water cult', planet with 'no identity' people, religious monk/robots, etc. Some are masterpieces of sci-fi humor (multiplication of Tichy on the ship is just the best), some are just a simple fun (twentieth voyage with the attempt to fix the past from the future with the outcome that anything significant that happened to the human race is because of mistakes in trying to fix the history). Highly recommended to anyone (not only sci-fi fans). And by the way - it is totally different from 'Solaris'.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, January 10, 2003
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This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
If you like Lem, this is one of his best. It's not really science fiction, it's the discharge of neurons in a fireworks display.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great, June 25, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
joe missed the point of this one. Since when are Lem's stories plot-driven? Some books even lack a story line altogether (which, of course, does not lessen their impact). The 20th Voyage is a wonderful satire on the scientific endeavor and mistaken human superiority and is very carefully constructed - it takes a few reading to realize that the time loop makes perfect sense and actually says a bit about the future of humanity. These stories aren't brain candy but rather sophisticated. Therefore, don't expect a thrill-rides, but idea-driven tales.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gulliver's Journeys in space, February 14, 2001
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This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
"The Star Diaries" cannot be easily classified, probably because of its varied content. In any case, this isn't science fiction. This is philosophical satire, although it isn't clear what precisely it satirizes. The theme isn't consistent. The book is intended as a recollection of a spacefarer's unbelievable journeys, with each story being a separate adventure. Each is numbered, but the enumeration contains gaps, and, in any case, the numerical order isn't the chronological (the chronological order is 22, 23, 25, 11, 12, 13, 14, 7, 8, 28, 20, 21).
If one does read the stories in the chronological order, a certain evolution becomes clear: the earlier stories are light-hearted social satire with Ijon Tichy as the book's extremely close-minded but nevertheless courteous and polite hero romping about on alien planets ("Due to the retardation of the passage of time, my sneeze lasted five days and five nights, and when Tarantoga again opened the little door, he found me nearly unconscious with exhaustion", 12th Journey); but with each new journey the reader is bound to notice that the backgrounds begin to become more and more Earthlike, the cheerful pseudo-sci-fi camouflage is dropped, and Ijon himself becomes a convention designed to deliver the plot's message. Some of these later journeys begin to drag quite impressively (20 bored me to tears - especially when I realized that it's a direct copy of a shorter story in the "Further Reminiscences"), but from time to time deliver an incredibly potent message (13 and 21 being the most prominent examples - both dealing with personal freedoms).
Of the earlier romps, 7 (a multiple time loop causes Ijon to live and re-live every part in a scandal over who should go and repair the rudder), 12 (Ijon is stranded on Amauropia with a time machine, and, by speeding up the evolution of a race of local cave people, is forced to live through all the tribulation a tribe, a feudal kingdom, a theocracy, a Republic, and a militaristic regime can offer), and 14 (Ijon tours a planet whose high-tech amoeboid natives have a titanic taboo centered about the concept of "scrupts") seem to be the most fun.
The faults? As I mentioned, some of the later stories drag quite a bit, especially when the reader isn't prepared for a lesson in philosophy. Those looking for "Hitchhiker's Guide" sort of fiction will only be able to stomach about half the book. From time to time, Lem slips into writing entirely in and about fictional (read - "nonsensical") things. Of course, not all the nonsense is really non-sense: Lem relied on plays of words and puns for some of the humor, and most was probably lost in the translation (I was lucky to read it in the next best thing to the original Polish - Ukrainian).
Nevertheless, this is a startling, mind-bending, and superbly original read which should not be missed.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Farcical sketches and intellectual brainteasers, November 17, 2002
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This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
If Borges had written "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," it might have resembled "The Star Diaries." Not really a novel, this hit-and-miss collection (mostly hits) features randomly ordered and thematically unlinked space journeys by Ijon Tichy, who also stars in the far more accessible "Futorological Congress."

Even though it's not a long book, "The Star Diaries" is best enjoyed in small doses. Some of the more lighthearted tales resemble the best Monty Python skits (and are just as hysterical). In the Seventh Voyage, for example, Tichy gets caught in time loops which causes multiple versions of himself to encounter one another. "That Friday me by now was the Saturday me and perhaps was suddenly knocking about somewhere in the vicinity of Sunday, while this Friday me inside the spacesuit had only recently been the Thursday me, into which same Thursday me I myself had been transformed at midnight." By the end of the chapter, the spaceship is so crowded with Ijon Tichys that they can barely move around.

Other stories tend more towards historical parody or philosophical commentary. The allusions run so fast and thick that these (particularly the Twentieth and Twenty-First Voyages) pay rereading, and even then I found myself puzzling over some of the references. The themes and plots of these tales most resemble Borges's cabalistic fables (it would be interesting to know if Borges was an influence) and, although they are absorbing in their own right, I don't think Lem's stories are as rewarding as Borges's fiction--but then again, Borges doesn?t demand as much of his reader.

Science fiction aficionados looking for another "Solaris" (or even another "Futurological Congress") might be disappointed by this volume--but ultimately it will depend on your taste in cerebral humor. Instead of straightforward narrative or easily imagined characters, Lem has fashioned farcical sketches and intellectual brainteasers that are both challenging and humorous.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scientific, smart and overall entertaining!, December 13, 2002
By 
Y Hanansen (Ann Arbor, MI United States) - See all my reviews
If you want to start reading books by Stanislaw Lem, I recommend starting with this one. Ijon Tichy will become your hero and companion.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful, November 8, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
This by happy chance was the very first Lem book I read. It is by turns hilarious, deeply moving, and profound--but always entertaining. The voyage that says the most about the unthinking embrace of technological change, I think, is the eleventh voyage, the voyage to the renegade robot planet. After you finish this go directly to "Return From the Stars".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funiest sci-fi, April 2, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
This is the first sci-fi book I read -- I was ten. Ever since, I am looking for something that can live up to the expectations Lem created in the Star Diaries... I am still looking!
My favourite voyage is 23, when he was dispatched to change, "streamline", they say :), the course of history. This is very suseptible to translations mistakes as it is mostly words-play, but the English translation is not that bad after all.
A book just for those who like a different point of view...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Absurdity, satire, philosophy, time-travel, blah blah blah, January 27, 2014
By 
2theD "2theD" (The Big Mango, Thailand) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Star Diaries (Paperback)
I would never have guessed that the Stanislaw Lem who wrote Solaris (1961) would be the very same Stanislaw Lem who wrote The Cyberiad (1965). Picking up The Star Diaries, my expectations were as nebulous as... a gaseous nebula (?). The book's own synopsis sounded like a mixture of themes: zany jaunts of a deranged voyager and the literary reflections of a thoughtful scholar. With no recourse, I openly agreed to the book's adjectives: bizarre, unpredictable, frantic.

Rear cover synopsis:
"Cosmonaut, time-traveller and battered hero of The Futurological Congress, Ijon Tichy makes his triumphant return, recording a dazzling array of voyages in time and space. Caught in a time-warp, pleading a shakiy case for humanity as the intergalactic United Nations, spying ineptly on a planet whose robot inhabitants speak a grubby version of Chaucerian English, Tichy's diaries are bizarre, unpredictable, frantic and sometime deeply disturbing."

The reader should be aware of Michael Kadel's Translator's Note (274-275) which declares:

"[T]he numbering of the Voyages conceals their true chronology: the Seventh appeared in 1964, the Fourteenth in 1957, the Eighteenth in 1971, the Twenty-second in 1954, and so on. Lem does not intend these adventures of Ijon Richy to be read in the order in which they were written. That order however--22, 23, 25, 11, 12, 13, 14, 7, 8, 28, 20, 21--does reflect his development as a writer." (274)

The reader should not mind the gaps in the Voyages. These Voyages either never took place (never written), never could have taken place (due to Ijon's strange timeline), or were entirely edited out of this edition (as is the "Twenty-Sixth Voyage" [1956], "a cold war satire, which the author later discarded, more for esthetic reasons than political reasons" [275] and in which "Tichy lands in a big American city in the early 1950s - the apogeum of the Cold War").

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The Seventh Voyage (1964, shortstory) - 5/5 - On a solo voyage "cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse" (1), Ijon Tichy develops a rudder problem which takes two men to fix. Unable to functionally navigate, he heads into an area of space infested with 147 temporal vortices. The future and past versions of himself seem unable to cooperate; he argues with his selves, assaults his selves, and eventually relies on his distant future selves to organize. 18 pages ------ Dysfunctionally brilliant! Serving as an introduction to the mannerisms of Ijon, the reader is exposed to the maladaptive attitudes which motivate Ijon through his career as a journeyman of the stars. With a smile plastered on your face, laud in the ill-logic of meeting temporally different versions of yourself: having the knowledge of what your future self will experience with its earlier selves, yet being so stubborn that you ignore all intuitions; having a serious dilemma ignored by your inability to cooperate with your numerous selves. One can't help but shake one's head and feel sorry for Ijon yet aso laugh at his bumbling conundrum.

The Eighth Voyage (1966, shortstory) - 4/5 - Ijon has the honor of representing all of mankind in its bid to become part of the United Planets; however, with the patronage of the robotic Rhohch race, this honor soon becomes an unforeseen annoyance and hazard. The delegation of the United Planets, when hearing the case for humanity, remarks upon their disdain for the Neanderthals, their craving for flesh, and their curious primordial origins. 19 pages ------ You should not be proud of who you represent, but also be impeccably prepared to defend who you represent... this is not the case of Ijon, who was thrust into the scenario with all abandon to represent humanity with an idiot as equally as bumbling as he. When the accusations begin to fly, Ijon half understands each argument and meekly agrees to each thrust of denouncement. The meeting turns ugly for Ijon, and humanity, when a long held truth is exposed that frames humanity in an unappealing light--our origins.

The Eleventh Voyage (1961, novelette) - 4/5 - Lost for decades, a ship is eventually found orbiting a planet but the computer which ran the ship had gone haywire and subsumed two databanks into its personage: psychopathology and archaic lexiology. The sad case of the planet, its robotic denizens, and its wicked/insane computer despot comes to the attention of Ijon, who personally takes the assignment with the human hating robots and psychopathic computer, all. 35 pages ------ Not many personalities can eclipse Ijon in uniqueness or absurdity, but the computer which abandoned its craft (inflicted with dichotomia profundia psychogenes electorcutiva alternans) and established its reputed robot colony takes the idiomatic cake. Suffused with random, bizarre data, the information it holds molds its colony into a strange, strange anti-wonderland of olde English and a prevalent hatred for Earth humans. Ijon mission into this very world shows the reader a craftier, more logic-oriented person aside from his normal bumbling self... but also exposes mankind's sense of fear and ability to follow the herd.

The Twelfth Voyage (1957, shortstory) - 5/5 - Professor Tarantoga invents a dilator or retarder of time yet our eager explorer Ijon finds very little use for it until the same professor has data concerning the Gypsonians on the planet Amauropia. The device, also a time accelerator, allows Ijon to track the progressing civilization of the Gypsonians while fumbling into their mythology and religion. A broken knob has our hero scrambling for relief. 10 pages ------ Ijon has the prime opportunity to witness a civilizations fluctuation of rise and fall; instead, he predictably stumbles into the same civilization's path of destiny, skewing its innate cultural direction with his influence. Ijon becomes honored, well respected, idolized, and immortalized before his own ineptness causes him to grown younger and younger. Scrambling for his ship, the knee-high Ijon reaches a precarious state.

The Thirteenth Voyage (1957, shortstory) - 5/5 - An individual known as Master Oh is renowned for his wisdom and knack for resolving social issues on a planetary scale. Ijon endeavors to meet the myth but, on the way to Fatamiasma, is held by the state of the Free Aquatica of Pinta who blindly follow their king's decreed of aquatic evolution. Once free of those bonds, Ijon is then held prisoner by Free Angelica of Panta, a uniform yet interesting place. 19 pages ------ While Ijon is banally unique, Master Oh is exultingly unique and his presence would only be tainted by the bumbling likes of Ijon. Ijon's ham-fisted extrasolar jaunting lands him, first, on Pinta which is at a mental battle with itself, straining between accepting the obvious and accepting a hierarchical edict: the man-made floods are an indicator of our future aquatic destiny. Then, the scenario on the monotonous planet Panta shucks off Ijon's ignorance in favor of his philosophical side, debating individuality with personal function in society.

The Fourteenth Voyage (1957, novelette) - 3/5 - Ijon has wanderlust but his ship's brain, cracking jokes the whole way to Enteropia, drives him a bit batty prior to his entry to the planet; unfortunately, he only brought along the encyclopedia for Enteroptica. Without his referential reassurance, Ijon has no concrete ideas about the planet's machets, squamps, whackers, the obligatory body doubles or the most important cultural item--the prevalent yet unspeakable scrupt. 23 pages ------ A victim of his own ignorance and suffering a bout of accidental ignorance, Ijon attempts to explore the habits and customs of the people inhabiting Enteropia but lacks any direction on what each culturally important item actually is. Haphazardly, he involves himself in a series of extravagant feats and perplexing dead-ends; some experiences prove worthy of the trip, yet others grate his sense of comfort and logic.

The Twentieth Voyage (1971, novelette) - 4/5 - Ijon is contacted by this future 27th century self so that he may accept a position which regulates the past. The position, General Director of the Project, heads the vast temporal organization known as the Teleotelechronistic Historical Engineering to Optimize the Hyperputerized Implementation of Paleological Programming and Interplanetary Planning (THEOHIPPIP). When accepted the world's social, evolutional, and solar troubles plague him. 41 pages ------ Another one of those chronologically counter-intuitive experiences of Ijon; his future self needs to convince to take a post from which his future self comes from. Eventually succumbing to inevitability, Ijon then gets to work making the past more uniform, only to find his entire more as inept as he is, thereby wreaking havoc across time and space, the result of which we see ourselves today.

The Twenty-First Voyage (1971, novella) - 2/5 - The Laws of Trash, of Noise, and of Spots apply to all civilizations except that which inhabits the planet Cichotica, which, of course, Ijon simply must visit. Initially confronting a field of flesh furniture, Ijon is kidnapped by an underground enclave of monastic robots. With the robots, Ijon learns the lengthy history, through oral and written traditions, of the planet's clash of science and religion. 54 pages ------ A quirky start to the story is dragged to a sluggish crawl when the story is bridled and reined in by a heavy dose of detailed world history, ecclesiastical preponderances, and philosophical meanderings. While the intellectual foray is mentally stimulating, the protracted exposure is somnolent, being in great contrast with the playful and intriguing mix of the previous seven stories.

The Twenty-Second Voyage (1954, shortstory) - 4/5 - Recalling mementos at his museum of memories, Ijon relives the tale of his penknife. The sun of Erysipelas has 1,480 bodies orbiting its vicinity, two hundred of which have the generic name of "Satelline"; on one of these orbiting bodies Ijon has lost his favorite penknife and he still himself to find the pub in which he left it, but instead is entertained by a Dominican monk. 11 pages ------ Absent-minded and driven by unseen internal forces, Ijon is, again, the bedazzled oaf among the stars, this time on a quest for an emotionally-attached personal trinket--a penknife. At the end of the story, which follows an odd direction, is a interesting and poignant tale of sacrifice and martyrdom which follows another tale of sheepishly believing what students are taught. The translator, Michael Kandel, admits that "the last few pages" (275) of the story to be omitted but doesn't specify why the story is truncated as it is (but research suggests it may have been too controversial to the over-sensitive Americans of the "Bible Belt", in regards to blindly digesting what has been taught versus critically appraising what has been taught, as per the morale of "The Twenty-Second Voyage").

The Twenty-Third Voyage (1954, shortstory) - 3/5 - The planet of Erpeya is renowned for its small size, a fact which is interesting enough to send Ijon on yet another heedless voyage. Most interesting to Ijon, the Whd of Erpeya atomize themselves to ashes during their sleep time or any time of wait or boredom. He's not eager to try the atomization but he soon becomes a fan of the process and abuses its convenience. 6 pages ------ Leading idol lives is the sin of the Whd; idle time spent in a pile of atomized ash rather than being lost in a book, absorbed in conversation or amazed at the world around them. Clearly, this idle lifestyle, the epitome of a labor saving device to the extreme, can be addictive and contagious, as Ijon finds out. I know a number of people like the Whd--they exclusively watch TV as a form of "entertainment" and their personality reflects the dull glow of the same television set.

The Twenty-Fifth Voyage (1954, shortstory) - 3/5 - The planet of Tairia exists amid the "primordial chaos and danger" (237) of its solar system's innumerable rocky elements; not only are the tiny missiles hazardous to passing ships, but a recent attack by a creature has raised further concern. A friend of Ijon was attacked by, what scientists deem to be, potatoes. The declaration is so preposterous that philosophers gather to debate what "is" is and scientists are eager for a live sample. 17 pages ------ This story follows a ragtag series of inanity from potatoes stalking the asteroid belts to an olfactory symphony to an alien race which to have sexes. While each part is interesting, entertaining or captivating, I haven't been able to link it all together into coherence, thus the 3 or 5 rating. Let me know if your whack at it is more successful.

The Twenty-Eighth Voyage (1966, shortstory) - 3/5 - Ijon, alone in his spaceship in deep space, recollects about his family name, his ancestors and his birth. With plans to jettison the document, he records the family line from Anonymus, who fathered eighteen children and held a number of rather odd jobs, to the star captain named Cosimo Tichy, with his ship hold full of family members cum generation ship and an unnamed boy stuffed in a drawer. 20 pages ------ Ijon's eccentric personality, idiosyncratic whims and moments of complete stupidity may come from his inbred gene line while aboard his father's ship. This allegation is inferred, I could be wrong as another reviewer has said that perhaps either Ijon himself or his father was an imaginary figure, insanity stemming from prolonged, isolated space travel, much as Ijon is used to but not yet accustomed to.
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The Star Diaries
The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem (Paperback - June 26, 1985)
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