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Fiasco 1st Edition

4.1 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156306300
ISBN-10: 0156306301
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

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

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (March 15, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156306301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156306300
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,405 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
How hard can you take it? Fiasco is the fourth and most pessimistic of Lem's "contact" novels (after Eden, The Invincible and Solaris). Humanity undertakes its first interstellar voyage in the hope of making contact with the inhabitants of the planet Quinta, but the aliens won't play ball and all the scientists can do, as usual, is present various theories which achieve little, nothing, or worse than nothing. The basic problem is a simple one (and a recurrent Lem theme): how can human beings hope to recognize, let alone understand or talk to, creatures which are wholly different in their biological and technological heritage? There's a good deal of technical discussion, concerning both the possibilities of contact and the workings of interstellar travel, which might prove difficult going; but if you stick with it the paradoxes are delightful, though hardly encouraging; and the descriptive passages are as good as anything in Solaris. The opening chapter is a stunning jou!rney through a literally titanic landscape, and although it might at first seem rather loosely related to the rest of the book, its perspective on the "heroic" protagonist is vital to the ending - another set-piece in a beautifully evoked alien landscape, this time on Quinta. Heroism, even human-ness itself, when confronted with the alien, is not just an irrelevance (as it is to varying degrees in the three previous books) but a deadly liability. Even now that it can resurrect the dead and travel to the stars, humanity still can't see outside itself. The expedition, though a miracle of human endeavour, is a fiasco. But Fiasco is a hard, ironic, sometimes breathtaking triumph.
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Format: Paperback
Almost all of Lem's science fiction centers around one or two variations of one theme. The theme is "What is intelligence?" and the two variations are "What would robotic life be like?" and "What would a truly alien intelligence be like?" "Fiasco" is in the latter category. An expedition from Earth approaches and attempts to contact an alien race that does everything it can to avoid being contacted. The humans use their technological advantage to slowly escalate their efforts with ultimately catastrophic results.

"Fiasco" is a brilliant read on its own, and very approachable, but should really be considered part of Lem's larger set of works on this theme: "Solaris", "Eden" and "His Master's Voice" being the most obvious...with "Fiasco" being the most approachable, "Solaris" the best known and "His Master's Voice" the most challenging.
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Format: Paperback
The finest example of science fiction in the world. Kandel does his usual acrobatics in rendering Lem's Polish into English. Lem has obviously learned much from Olaf Stapeldon; if only other writers would do the same, sci-fi would not be such a disappointing genre. Instead, sadly, Fiasco and Stapeldon's sci-fi books seem to be out-of-print.
Fiasco is simply astonishing: a meditation on the nature of intelligence, culture, technology. Lem often parodies science fiction while writing serious literature, but with this novel he and translator Michael Kandel outdid all previous efforts.
While The Futurological Congress remains my favorite Lem book (personal taste), Fiasco is the best Lem book in English, followed closely by the 'lectures' of GOLEM the computer in Lem's Imaginary Magnitude.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Walked into this one with Eden, Return From The Stars, Solaris, Cyberiad and most of the Pirx stories under my belt. After reading Fiasco, I researched Lem on the Web, for the first time, just to get to know this extaordinary man and his career better. I found out that I not only learn from him, I also learn just from reading about him.

I believe this novel, Lem's last, contains his finest effort of all. The playfulness and leitmotifs of some of his other work are absent, but we get a sober treatment of just how a voyage of hundreds of light years could be carried out, without a magical 'warp drive', and a cautionary tale about expectations,self delusion and just how alien alien can get. The first chapter, that some other reviewers found boring, I found to be written in the style of his Pirx stories, with one event leading to the next, and with our pilot Parvis' viewpoint featured. No deep concepts, no long, involved conversations - just an adventure story prequel to the Quinta voyage. For example, the six-page description of Parvis taking control of the fusion-powered Digla is a fascinating and satisfying tour de force of traditional hard scifi. I climbed into the control harness as if I was Parvis, while I renewed my deep love of Lem's evocative prose (see title of this review). The first chapter takes place on the moon Titan, and depicts the workaday world of our thoroughly conquered Solar system, while informing us that Pirx has disappeared on a Digla operation, and a spaceman very much like Pirx sets out in another one to find him. Lem's mixture of hard science fiction with lyrical description is pure catnip for readers with hungry imaginations. You aren't merely wowed by all the mecha; you enter into the joy of it.
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Format: Paperback
The cover art has nothing to do directly with the story. Simply the artist�s idea of what the story was about in a metaphorical way.
What IS the story about? Set in a future when humankind finally acts on the basis of a scientific ideal not personal gain a planet is discovered in a distant solar system that has a high probability of supporting life. An expedition is sent and seemingly noble efforts are made to make contact with the inhabitants. The story illustrates, in my own opinion, that no matter how 'evolved' we think we are, no matter how noble and honorably we think we can be, our pride in ourselves and our accomplishments has a way of causing us to ultimately act in barbaric ways.
The beginning of the story is astonishing and relates the re-animation of a man frozen on Titan a century earlier. The scene painted by Lem of this man�s technique in saving himself, his death, and his eventual return to the living are all astonishingly well-written and full of imagery. Lem is a master at getting the reader to imagine a very realistic and plausible scenario. All of this takes place in the first few chapters. This introductory story also serves to acquaint us with the 'evolved' and noble human of the distant future. The human we all hope our children�s children become.
There is also a short description of man�s mastery of gravity and cybernetics. This is related in a short description of an �smart� probe vehicle and the probe�s independently deduced attempts to avoid capture by the planet�s inhabitants.
I�ve read other reader�s comments regarding Lem�s use of science as a tool only and that he is not a true science fiction writer. I completely disagree.
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