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The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy Paperback – October 28, 1985
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The futurologists of the world have gathered at their Eighth World Congress at the Costa Rica Hilton to discuss the problem of overpopulation. Their deliberations, however, are interrupted by a revolution which the government attempts to quell with chemical weapons. The air and water are laden with "benignimizers" and other exotic drags which send futurologist Tichy careening into a hallucinatory tomorrow. Lem's view of the overcrowded future is original and disturbing. A pessimistic, mordantly funny book, well translated from the Polish by Michael Kandel. (Kirkus Reviews ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Text: English, Polish (translation)
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While Lem is wonderfully creative and you could tell he had a great time penning this story, I was also blown away by the translator. This novel is so much about word play, and you could not tell it was written in a foreign language. It was impecably translated and didn't suffer a bit. I can't wait to try more of Lem's books. While very funny and short, there was also a scary message here.
Even if you are not a sci-fi fan, you are in for a treat with this book. It would take anyone out of a reading slump or maybe even a deep depression. Get it and enjoy, now!
As most books from this genre do, "The Futurological Congress" hurls you into a bizarre world from page 1. The story, based in Costa Rica at a conference of futurologists, takes the reader through many hallucinogen-fueled narratives. At many times, it was difficult to understand what was reality and what was a product of the LTN (love-thy-neighbor) chemicals in the air; this, however, is one of the most fascinating aspects of the tale.
Lem does a great job creating a world very different from our own but grounded in concepts we all understand. He also, quite successfully, fosters a sense of uncertainty in the reader; this uncertainly mirrors that experienced by the narrator and welcomes the reader to guess at what might happen later in the story.
I will not give any of the story away, but I would advise you to stick with this book through the end. At the onset, I was confused about what was happening and how the story would come together; I was not drawn to the writing style (the English translation is good but not perfect), but by the end, I couldn't put it down.
This is a great exploration of human character and a riveting read. However, if you are not familiar with Lem's works, I might suggest starting with "Solaris" so you get a good introduction to his style. I would definitely recommend "The Futurological Congress" if you're interested in a quirky, dynamic science fiction read.
Set in the not too distant future, Congress is narrated by Ijon Tichy, who recounts the events of his visit to the Futurological Congress. The irony is that the titular event never really occurs thanks to a popular uprising in the host country. Poor Tichy dies only to be resurrected in a future where society is regulated by an endless array of psychotropic drugs.
In today's world of Ritalin, Ambien, Cialis, Prozac, and so on, Lem's drug fueled vision of the future seems eerily prophetic. The translation (from the original Polish) does an excellent job with the laundry list of psuedo-drugs Lem invents for the citizens of the future, and preserves his trademark cynicism and eye for human foibles. Written under the heavy-hand of Soviet rule, Congress is full of digs at government, bureaucracy and the man's timid resistance to manipulation.
An amazing and bizarre story, full of wit and remarkable insight, Congress resonates to this day and rightfully earns its place at the pinnacle of intelligent Sci-Fi.