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Solaris Paperback – November 20, 2002

4.0 out of 5 stars 344 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

“A fantastic book.” —Steven Soderbergh

When psychologist Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds himself confronting a painful memory embodied in the physical likeness of a past lover. Kelvin learns that he is not alone in this and that other crews examining the planet are plagued with their own repressed and newly real memories. Could it be, as Solaris scientists speculate, that the ocean may be a massive neural center creating these memories, for a reason no one can identify?

Long considered a classic, Solaris asks the question: Can we understand the universe around us without first understanding what lies within?

“A novel that makes you reevaluate the nature of intelligence itself.” —Anne McCaffrey

Stanislaw Lem (1921–2006) is the author of many works bearing the broad label of “science fiction” and others ranging in genre and style from satire to philosophy. Lem’s books have been translated into forty-one languages and have sold over forty-five million copies.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner (2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156027607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156027601
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (344 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
One note readers should know beforehand is that the version of Solaris available in English is a translation from Polish to French and then translated from the French into English. For some irresponsible and bizarre reason, publishing house Faber and Faber who own the license have not authorized a direct from Polish translation of Solaris. The good news is that despite this the translators from the French have a good sense of literary style and did a fine job of making it readable and enjoyable, though obviously not as accurate a translation as could be.
At first glance Solaris seems hard science fiction. Set in the future after man has explored many systems the main character arrives at the space station orbiting the planet Solaris. Lem lets us know several things up front, the planet is suspected of being an intelligent life form and there is a long history of exploration, strange happenings and accidents that have occurred. By the time Kelvin arrives after almost two hundred years of study only a small team is left to record and study the planet.
More than hard science is really at the heart of this novel. There are musings on alien contact and the nature of what is intelligence. Is man really the measure of everything? As events occur, Kelvin the rational scientist succumbs to those most irrational of feelings, love and longing. Ironically, Kelvin, the person sent to investigate the occurrences among the crew is the one who is emotionally effected the most by the visitors that accompany everyone.
The genius of the novel is that the visitors are reflections or copy's of each individual in each person's memory. Every character is touched (or disturbed) on a level much deeper than a more conventional alien contact approach.
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Format: Paperback
About 5 minutes into the new movie version of Solaris starring George Clooney I could tell it was going to be along the same lines as 2001:A Space Odyssey. We were going to have long extended shots of spaceships docking and very slow development, and with little or no external explanation from the characters. I was right. This could explain why in a recent internet poll, this most recent version of Solaris was voted the most disliked movie of the last 20 years. I liked the movie ok but I felt there were many more layers to discover underneath its sheen that could only be revealed by the original source. So I sought out this novel that was originally published in 1961 and translated from French to English in 1970.
As the story begins, Kris Kelvin, a psychologist, is headed to the planet Solaris, a planet that he has studied before. He is to dock with the 3-man orbiting space station above the planet. The unique thing about Solaris is that it appears sentient, but not in any way that human beings can understand. At one time it was a pressing issue to make contact with this planet organism but after decades of trying no real success has been achieved and most scientists have given up. Solaris has shown no response to repeated efforts to communicate with it. Kris doesn't expect that anything has changed but he soon finds out that contact has been made.
When he arrives he soon learns that one of the crew members has died and that another has locked himself in his room and refuses to come out and the other speaks in riddles. Then, his dead wife shows up, as real and material as the flesh and blood he remembers. Somehow, Solaris is dragging figures from their memory and making simulations that come to life in the real world. The question is why?
I loved this book.
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Format: Paperback
This novel explores the theme of communication. Scientists explore a curious planet, Solaris, whose ocean appears to be an intelligent life-form. Scientists are sent to live on the planet
for purposes of establishing contact.
Contact is elusive however. What is to be the medium of communication? Even without the tool of verbal language,
humans can empathize and communicate to some extent with other mammals. We know that they share common instincts and emotions with us, such as fear, sex drive, hunger, etc. But what about something so "other" as this solarian ocean?
Finally indisputable evidence of contact arrives. Solaris is able to tap into the scientists brains and create exact replicas of significant persons from their past. These replicas look and act in the same way as the people they simulate. The main character Kelvin has before him Rheya, an ex-lover who had committed a suicide which he could have prevented.
This leads to another problem of communication: how to understand the intentions of this action? Has Solaris created the simulacra as a cruel joke, Or did Solaris do this to please the visitor? Is Solaris just doing it as a kind of experiment?
The scientists are tempted to judge the planet according to human behavior, but realize that would be folly.
Humans view others, not just Solaris, but any other species, or even any other human being through the prism of their subjectivity. To reach the other requires an incredible effort of will...it may be impossible. Kelvin is at once in love with the succubus and tormented that "she" is not really Rheya, in spite of the resemblance. The succubus is evertyhing that Rheya was to Kelvin because she is nothing but a collection of his memories. Fine, but who was the real Rheya?
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