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The Investigation by [Lem, Stanislaw]
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The Investigation Kindle Edition

2.9 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Length: 216 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Polish (translation)

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.

Product Details

  • File Size: 697 KB
  • Print Length: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 18, 2012)
  • Publication Date: July 18, 2012
  • Sold by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008R2K8VO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #619,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on April 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
For years I'd heard a lot about Stanislaw Lem as a great Polish science fiction writer, maybe one of the world's greats in that field, but I hadn't ever read him. Therefore, when I saw a book of his at a yard sale, I bought it. The price was certainly right. But, I must report that I still haven't read any of his science-fiction because THE INVESTIGATION turns out to be one of his few works in other genres. But what genre is this ? You might say it's a detective novel, but "metaphysical detective fiction" would describe it better. How many other books fit into the same field ? Good question. Here we find bodies removed from graveyards and mortuaries; sometimes they turn up elsewhere, sometimes not. Gregory, a suspicious policeman, is assigned to catch the perpetrator. But is there a perpetrator ? Discussions of statistics and probability, as well as mysterious speculations, pepper this novel, which takes place in cold, foggy, rainy or snowy conditions in England, a country that does not emerge very realistically from the background. I was constantly reminded of Ismail Kadare's novel "Doruntine" by the similar philosophical nature of the writing which marks both books, by the rain and cold, and even by the names of characters-Stres in the Albanian book, and Sciss (the statistician) in Lem's. I can't say that this is a characteristic Lem novel because it's the first I ever read. But a detective novel that asks "what if everything that exists is fragmentary, incomplete, aborted, events with ends but no beginnings, events that only have middles, things that have fronts or rears, but not both, with us constantly making categories..... ?" cannot be considered average. Lem's novel may not be to everyone's taste---especially if you are looking for sex, violence, or lots of action---but it is unusual and well-written.
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Format: Paperback
In fitting with the theme of this book: It was a Friday afternoon, and my wife and I stopped by the main library in our city. I had my mind of checking out two particular books. I gathered the two books and then proceeded to walk through the stacks in the fiction area. As I walked, this work (with an odd late 1980s cover, at the end of a row) caught my eye. I checked it out on a whim, not knowing anything about it.

From start to finish this floored me. The tension between order and randomness -- light and dark -- is thrilling and makes for a sensational reading experience. Lem also creates setting (dark restaurants, bars with women in bare shoulders) in magnificent ways. His ability to keep a complex tale simple also is admirable because this is a book with deceptively heavy themes. Finally, unlike a lot of books with similar themes, the ending here is perfect, in that, often humans are left crying in the wilderness.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a departure from my usual style of reviewing, I'm going to give the plot of THE INVESTIGATION rather short shrift, because any synopsis I could come up with would simply be misleading. It does have elements of a detective novel, with the lead investigator, Lt. Gregory of Scotland Yard, assigned to track down the culprit behind a slate of corpse-snatchings; yet even though it adheres to the conventions of the genre, it is no traditional mystery. I think it would be more appropriate to consider it a metaphysical novel, one designed to question how humanity perceives reality.

Frankly, the novel is a bit baffling. In some ways, it seems as though the conclusion doesn't merit the build-up. I don't want to give anything away, but readers who are expecting easy answers to the mystery are going to be disappointed. In reality, there really is no ending to speak of, though that doesn't mean the book is incomplete. It just means that it will probably frustrate many readers.

There are other aspects that will likely exasperate. The writing itself I thought was rather clunky, though one never knows if that isn't the fault of the translator. And there are several scenes within the novel that seem to be unrelated to anything else - some are as surreal as Kafka's interludes in THE TRIAL, some reminiscent of Poe's macabre atmospheres (in fact, it seems like there are several direct homages to Poe's most famous short-stories). These last segments were bizarre in relation to the rest of the story, especially if one is reading the book as an ordinary account. Taken in context with its questioning nature, though, and it seems as though they could be hazy, indistinct pictures of the puzzle. It was these odd extracts I enjoyed most about the novel.
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Format: Paperback
As every detective and scientist should know, objectively there are facts and relationships between facts. Sometimes there are causal relationships between facts, and the facts are correlated; sometimes there are no causal connections between facts, and the facts may or may not show some statistical correlation. The situation where the facts display at least chance correlations but may not be linked causally provides the leitmotiv for Stanislaw Lem's "The Investigation" (and his "Chain of Chance" for that matter).
Correlated facts are suggestive, but when the number of facts does not amount to a meaningful statistical sample the correlation may be an artifact, and then sound inductive reasoning often gives way to wild speculation. In "The Investigation", lieutenant Gregory of Scotland Yard desperately tries to puzzle out a consistent explanation for a bizarre series of disappearing corpses while receiving input from a scientist, a doctor, and fellow detectives --- each with his own ideas. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be enough solid evidence to decide whether the facts of the case have causal structure or whether they simply form "fortuitous patterns". Hmmm.
The category of "science fiction" is usually reserved for whimsical flights of fancy, but here we have a book that breathes fictional life into part of the intellectual apparatus that is at the very heart of science --- the empirical, or scientific, method. No pedantic statement is made about the empirical method, it's darker corners simply serve as a compelling thematic backdrop for a detective story.
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