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The Star Diaries

4.4 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0156849050
ISBN-10: 0156849054
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Editorial Reviews

Review

The Polish sf writer's Star Diaries is a crazy-quilt collection of pieces written, according to Kandel, "over a period of twenty years" and published in 1971. They present the voyages of Ijon Tichy, an incomparable and apparently indestructible fathead who is to the future what J. Wesley Smith (of the immortal cartoon "Through History With...") was to the past. Tichy bumbles and stumbles around the cosmos running out of gas between stars, sneaking around in cybernetic drag on a planet of mad robots, trying to duplicate himself (in a tail-chasing time loop near a "gravitational vortex") long enough to do a two-man rudder repair job, botching up the course of human events in a history-salvaging operation. Lem veers between joyous slapstick, freewheeling satire, and insanely involuted logical paradoxes - with surprisingly serious excursions into issues of will and faith. Funny, unexpected, tantalizing. (Kirkus Reviews)

Language Notes

Text: English, Polish (translation)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books (June 26, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156849054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156849050
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #372,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 14, 1998
Format: Paperback
My understanding is that the three books featuring space traveller Ijon Tichy were originally published in Polish in a single volume (THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, THE STAR DIARIES, and MEMOIRS OF A SPACE TRAVELLER). If so, I would insist that that has to be one of the ten greatest science fiction books ever published. The highpoint of the Tichy tales is THE FUTUROLOGICAL CONGRESS, which is published as a separate book in English, but the stories in THE STAR DIARIES are very nearly as good (the remnants were published in the MEMOIRS). Essential reading. They come across as some demonic blend of Italo Calvino, Escher, and Groucho Marx. Most sci-fi writing is deeply derivative from previous writers, but Stanislaw Lem is possibly the most original sci-fi writer of the past forty years. I am one of those who believe that Lem should have received serious consideration for a Nobel Prize.
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Format: Paperback
The best book from Ijon Tichy series. The set of stories is the best I read from this series. The stories, written in various years, show how diverse Lem is. Some of the themes he touches here are very serious, e.g.planet with the 'water cult', planet with 'no identity' people, religious monk/robots, etc. Some are masterpieces of sci-fi humor (multiplication of Tichy on the ship is just the best), some are just a simple fun (twentieth voyage with the attempt to fix the past from the future with the outcome that anything significant that happened to the human race is because of mistakes in trying to fix the history). Highly recommended to anyone (not only sci-fi fans). And by the way - it is totally different from 'Solaris'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you like Lem, this is one of his best. It's not really science fiction, it's the discharge of neurons in a fireworks display.
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Format: Paperback
"The Star Diaries" cannot be easily classified, probably because of its varied content. In any case, this isn't science fiction. This is philosophical satire, although it isn't clear what precisely it satirizes. The theme isn't consistent. The book is intended as a recollection of a spacefarer's unbelievable journeys, with each story being a separate adventure. Each is numbered, but the enumeration contains gaps, and, in any case, the numerical order isn't the chronological (the chronological order is 22, 23, 25, 11, 12, 13, 14, 7, 8, 28, 20, 21).
If one does read the stories in the chronological order, a certain evolution becomes clear: the earlier stories are light-hearted social satire with Ijon Tichy as the book's extremely close-minded but nevertheless courteous and polite hero romping about on alien planets ("Due to the retardation of the passage of time, my sneeze lasted five days and five nights, and when Tarantoga again opened the little door, he found me nearly unconscious with exhaustion", 12th Journey); but with each new journey the reader is bound to notice that the backgrounds begin to become more and more Earthlike, the cheerful pseudo-sci-fi camouflage is dropped, and Ijon himself becomes a convention designed to deliver the plot's message. Some of these later journeys begin to drag quite impressively (20 bored me to tears - especially when I realized that it's a direct copy of a shorter story in the "Further Reminiscences"), but from time to time deliver an incredibly potent message (13 and 21 being the most prominent examples - both dealing with personal freedoms).
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you want to start reading books by Stanislaw Lem, I recommend starting with this one. Ijon Tichy will become your hero and companion.
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If Borges had written "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," it might have resembled "The Star Diaries." Not really a novel, this hit-and-miss collection (mostly hits) features randomly ordered and thematically unlinked space journeys by Ijon Tichy, who also stars in the far more accessible "Futorological Congress."

Even though it's not a long book, "The Star Diaries" is best enjoyed in small doses. Some of the more lighthearted tales resemble the best Monty Python skits (and are just as hysterical). In the Seventh Voyage, for example, Tichy gets caught in time loops which causes multiple versions of himself to encounter one another. "That Friday me by now was the Saturday me and perhaps was suddenly knocking about somewhere in the vicinity of Sunday, while this Friday me inside the spacesuit had only recently been the Thursday me, into which same Thursday me I myself had been transformed at midnight." By the end of the chapter, the spaceship is so crowded with Ijon Tichys that they can barely move around.

Other stories tend more towards historical parody or philosophical commentary. The allusions run so fast and thick that these (particularly the Twentieth and Twenty-First Voyages) pay rereading, and even then I found myself puzzling over some of the references. The themes and plots of these tales most resemble Borges's cabalistic fables (it would be interesting to know if Borges was an influence) and, although they are absorbing in their own right, I don't think Lem's stories are as rewarding as Borges's fiction--but then again, Borges doesn?t demand as much of his reader.
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