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The Cyberiad Paperback – December 16, 2002
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Text: English, Polish (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
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I've been thinking and I'm quite sure there's two types of authors: those who love to TELL a story, and those who are actually in love with the LANGUAGE and the WORDS that tell their story. Mr. Lem is according to my totally random taxonomy of authors, one of the latter.
The book is by itself, a funny collection of stories: some of them are good, others are great. But it is not in the narration of the stories that The Cyberiad shines: it’s in the unquestionable love about the language (the original is in Polish, I read a fantastic English translation) and the way it can wrap a story: "cover it in sweet chocolate", so to speak.
The high point of the book is "The Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines". Its a great tale and really shines with Mr. Lem's way of telling the stories. And yes, this is the one that has the "matryoshka doll" vibe, like in One Thousand and One Nights.
But for me, the absolute best tale, with one of the most amazing fragments I've read in my whole life is "Trurl's Electronic Bard". You REALLY have to read the second poem, the one that is supposed to be "about a haircut, but lofty, noble, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, and quiet heroism in the face of certain doom!". Amazing. This paragraph, along with the absolutely great poem is something the whole humanity should read.
I will definitely read his other work, if it is as good and heartfelt as this one, then I look forward to visit Mr. Lem's “chocolate covered” universe.
The process of ordering this copy as a gift revealed that the book is now out of print. This is terrible news - but if you need a copy, buy it now before used copies climb in price!
I adore sci-fi novels. I was recommended this book by friends who also adore sci-fi. So I came into reading this with an appreciation of sci-fi and fantasy. I adore Philip K. Dick. I'm happy with books that are quirky and strange. So this was - theoretically - right up my alley.
The main thought that ran through my head while reading this collection of short stories was that the translator must have been amazing. The book was initially written in Polish, and a great deal of it involves complex word play. There's a six line rhyming poem where all words begin with the letter S. There's all sorts of fascinating descriptions. I would love to read an entire book about the translator and how much he directly translated and how much he had to extrapolate. Surely, for example, the poem couldn't have been directly translated and retained its beauty.
In terms of the book, though, maybe given the other books I've read my bar was simply raised too high. Certainly the book is *fun*. The two main characters have a rivalry and go gallivanting all over the universe to have adventures. But I wouldn't call them sci-fi adventures. They seem quite securely in the fantasy camp. The use of scientifically based words is often quite random and thrown out in piles of gobbly-gook. The two show up on a planet, they do something unseen in a back room, and then they pop out with a perfect solution.
Sometimes you have to wade through an entire page of fairly meaningless word piles to get back to the plot, and I did find that a bit tedious after a while. I enjoy word play but when it has a purpose, like with Douglas Adams, not when it's just noun after noun after noun.
I completely understand how some people see great insight in some of these story lines. There are stories that deal with how we handle pleasure, how we handle stress, how we handle boredom. They're told in a fun way. Still, I think the stories fall short of a glowing level of perfection. They're fun - but they can become meandering. They're fantasy - but there was such amazing potential there for the "science fiction" part that was missed out on. A story can catch you up and then something happens which makes you stop and think, "that makes no sense at all." It seems in many cases that the author wasn't sure how to make something work out logically so he pulled a twist out of a hat and changed the rules. Why use those cheats?
We are certainly not at a loss for fantastic science fiction books out there. There are stacks and stacks of them on our shelves. If we want books that delve into the nature of relationships, into the intricacy of emotions, we have those books. The Cyberiad is fun, but I wouldn't put it in the high perfection category of some of those other books.
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The kindle version is riddled with OCR errors, even in the titular verse.Read more