I think he might have become my favorite sci-fi writer. I like Clarke’s realistic approach to incredible alien concepts such as in Rendezvous With Rama, the far-future imagination of Gene Wolfe, the various cyberpunk visions of Altered Carbon and others, the clever stories of Bradbury and the massive scope of Asimov, the dystopias of Orwell and Atwood
...but Lem’s work has clicked with me in a way that any other science fiction author that I’ve read thus far hasn't. I adore his prose, his clever wordplay and descriptions both in poetic allusions and alterations and in the incredible sights and structures of his world. The utterly alien aliens of his fiction, his approach to the concept of first contact (or more specifically humanity’s struggle to comprehend the nature of that contact). The wonderful and intelligent ways he explores ideas like time travel and galactic federations and AI and our connection with technology, his satire and philosophical musings.
The Cyberiad has been an absolute joy to read. Take the whimsical nature of fables and fairy tales, place them in the endless possibilities of science fiction, and then use the stories to explore human nature and technology and society. The clever prose is wonderful even outside of the concepts and tales.
The Star Diaries is fun in a similar way, less fairy tale but no less whimsy in its humor and satire, some wonderfully scatching satire. The first story might be one of most fun time travel tales I’ve read, in the increasingly chaotic and crazy way it presents time loops. While the second has some of that fun satire:
"Good," he said. "So then, yes. I shall deliver a speech depicting your great achievements, achievements which entitle you to take your rightful place in the Astral Federation...This is, you understand, a kind of ancient formality. I mean, you don't anticipate any opposition...do you?"
"I-well-no, I don't think," I mumbled
"Of course not! The very idea! So then, strictly a formality, nonetheless I will need certain information. Facts, you understand, details. Atomic energy, one may assume, you already have at your disposal?"
"Oh yes! Yes!" I eagerly assured him.
"Marvelous. But wait, ah, I have it right here, the headchairman left me his notes, but his handwriting, h'm, well...and for how long have you availed yourselves of this energy?"
"Since the sixth of August, 1945!"
"Excellent. What was it? The first power plant?"
"No," I replied, feeling myself blush, "the first atomic bomb. It destroyed Hiroshima..."
"Hiroshima? A meteor?"
"Not a meteor...a city."
"A city...?" he said, uneasy. "In that case, h'm, how to put it..." he thought for a moment. "No, it's best to say nothing," he decided. "All right, fine, but I must have something to praise. Come now, think hard, we'll be there any minute."
"Uh...space travel," I began
"That is self-evident; without space travel you wouldn't be here now," he explained, a little testily I thought. "To what do you devote the bulk of your national revenue? Try to recall, any grand feat of engineering, architecture of the cosmic scale, gravitational-solar launchers, well?" he prompted.
"Yes...that is, work is under way," I said. "Government funds are rather limited, most of it goes to defense..."
"Defense of what? The continents? Against meteors, earthquakes?"
"No, not that kind of defense...armaments, armies..."
"What is that, a hobby?"
"Not a hobby...internal conflicts," I muttered