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His Master's Voice Paperback – November 25, 1999
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Original Language: Polish
Top Customer Reviews
Told in essentially diary format, HMV tells the story of one scientist's involvement in a secret goverment project established to decipher what appears to be a message from possibly superior, intelligent life. While most scientists spiral their theories into the fantastic, ours manages to poke sensible holes in each assertion...unfortunately escalating the Project's sense of hopelessness and ineptitude along the way.
Somehow, the scientists manage to produce possibly random effects from the recorded signal, but what does it all mean in the grander scheme? It's a wonderful moment when the main character finallly establishes his own theory of the signal, the effect, and his own short-comings.
I loved it.
This is not his best science fiction (Fiasco gets that honor) nor his most revealing psychological work (ironically that's Cyberiad). It doesn't explore technology to the greatest extent (try the Golem lectures). However, it may stand as simply the most important work of fiction of the information age.
What Lem really gets right here is practically all in the Introduction, a stellar piece that had me jotting quotes on bookmarks. The "story," such as it is, doesn't really get going until about the second chapter. Essentially, the depths of human intellectual limitations are mined throughout. Lem's deft use of the desertscape serves to remind us of our hopelessly remote place in the universe and of the sheer vastness of space. Lonesome, indeed.
Where the book goes wrong is in Lem's basic approach. Rendered as a sort of posthumous epistolic diary, there is scant dialogue and very little action. A more dramatic approach would have saved HMV from its utter dryness. My guess is, this time around, Lem only wished a room with enough scale in which to park his ideas, and this he has done to the point where too much of the time the piece resembles more a work of philosophy than fiction.Read more ›
This story reads more like philosophy than sci-fi so I can understand if people struggle with it.
Another point is that nothing is really ever solved in HMV. Just like the scientists trying to understand the message from the stars, the reader is left with the same frustration because we are told the outcome in the first few pages of HMV; defeat.
The message that Mankind has stumbled upon is an enigma so complex it would be like explaining the laws of physics to a baboon. The slight progress man does make is so subjective that it can't be considered true progress at all.
I would recommend HMV only to avid Lem fan's and to the others I would point in the direction of Fiasco, Solaris, or The Invincible.
In Sagan's "Contact", the signal
encodes plans for a spaceship; here it's not so simple.
The signal seems to carry many levels of meaning,
each one more bizarre and mind-boggling than the last.
Lem, as always, weaves together ideas from the fringes
of modern science. He also explores the human aspects
of scientific research.
This book is not light reading.
Many parts require a mental effort like, say,
that needed to play chess.
This can be irritating, even infuriating.
For readers are up to the task, however,
the book rewards the effort many times over.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
While Stanislaw Lem was not known as a writing man of action, neither was he Samuel Beckett for the most part either. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Michael Battaglia
One of Lem's perennial themes is the inability of the human species to understand the greater universe. He explorerd this theme memorably in "Solaris. Read morePublished 11 months ago by green chili reader
I am inclined to think of Lem as a Romanticist who writes in science fiction. His Master's Voice (much like Lem's masterpiece, Solaris) explores events and phenomena which elude or... Read morePublished 12 months ago by J. L. Vines
A unique investigation into a first contact scenario. While I was intrigued by all of the thoughtful perspectives brought forth in the novel, all of the discursive meandering... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Michael J. Wilson
"His Master's Voice" is a stunning and elegant book by an author who deserves to have been more popular in the United States. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Zac Ernst
I enjoyed this book for the content but not the style. It, like all of Lem's books, is packed with a very challenging lexicon made up of both existing and Lem's original, created... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Bill Smart
I'm a big fan of Lem. I'm currently reading "Invincible" and enjoying it very much.
HMV was a difficult read despite the fact that it was written well and had... Read more
In the histories of science and culture, the mass of knowledge has increased exponentially over the last five centuries. Read morePublished on March 13, 2014 by meh