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Mortal Engines Paperback – May 15, 1992
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Original Language: Polish
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The final two stories, though, are the real gems of this collection. They are longer, they feature humans as well as robots, and are serious, even somber in tone. One is told by a human, part of the party that has to hunt down a dangerous robot across the stark surface of the moon. The teller finds the rogue in the end and fells it, but something in that last moment turns it from victory into completion of a much more ambiguous kind. The final story, "The Mask," is a sensitive look into a man-made mind. It conveys real complexity in the robot's sense of its own life. One of the story's many readings is a warning that, even if the feelings are carried in metal cases, they're as real to the minds feeling them as ours are to us. Creating a mind that can feel such feelings imposes a responsibility on the creator - a responsibility not met in this chilling story.
This is Lem at his best, and his best is very good. The happy satire of the first stories is some of Lem's most amusing. The conjecture in the last story is some of his darkest. The set as a whole shows Lem's range as a writer, even within the constraints that unify this wonderful collection.
The fables are like--well, fables. That is, the prose style resembles Aesop or Andersen ("Once there lived..."); the narrative recounts long-ago events; and each tale presents a message--or, at least, a lesson for us humans disguised as a moral for them robots. These eleven shorts recall Borges (or even Poe) at his most playful, but read in sequence they tend to become a tad formulaic (several robots are sent on a mission; each fails, but the last one succeeds). And if you're a lover of science jokes, these stories will be your playground; Lem packs references to chemistry, physics, geology, computer science, and electronics--often in the same sentence: "self-motes came from distant lands, like the two Automatts, vector-victors in a hundred battles, or like Prostheseus, constructionist par excellence, who never went anywhere without two spark absorbers, one black, the other silver; and there was Arbitron Cosmoski, all built of protocrystals and svelte as a spire...."
If, like me, you prefer a little more story and a little less pun, you'll find that the gems of the book are the three bonus tracks. The last two, in particular, are among the best I've ever read by Lem, and have nothing in common with the fables other than the automaton theme. "The Hunt" is a rollicking adventure story featuring Lem's famous alter ego, Pirx the Pilot, on a mission to destroy a homicidal robot.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Lem is one of the greatest sci-fi writers in the world. A classic and a must-read for everyone who loves this genre.Published 21 months ago by siorka
Stanislaw Lem is one of my favorite writers and this book is a lot of fun to read, but it isn't the best Lem book (not all of his books can be 5 star masterpieces). Read morePublished on May 30, 2002