Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Mortal Engines Paperback – May 15, 1992
|New from||Used from|
Start a new series - up to 50% off
Featured First in Series titles are up to 50% off for a limited time. Learn More
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Original Language: Polish
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
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. "The Mask" may well be the best Lem story I've read: the haunting stream-of-consciousness of a robot who, like an otherworldly Tristram Shandy, narrates its own birth, consciousness, self-realization, metamorphosis, rebellion, and--above all--its futile pursuit of love. The opening pages have a deceptively languid pace, until the robot sheds its "mask" (in a surprisingly squeamish scene) and, during the ensuing chase, reveals its lethal assignment. These last stories are worth the price of the whole book.