• Register
  • TOS
  • Privacy
  • @NeoGAF
  • Like

More_Badass
Member
(09-26-2017, 03:47 AM)
More_Badass's Avatar
I’m a new convert to the wonderful works of Stanislaw Lem. I’m currently switching between the audiobooks of The Cyberiad and The Star Diaries, and have the books of Eden, Solaris, and The Invincible lined up as my subsequent reads

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

tonysidaway
Member
(09-26-2017, 04:04 AM)
The Star Diaries compilation and Futurological Congress are my favourite Lem books.

I must also mention that the Tarkovsky film of Solaris, which I believe Lem disliked, is in itself a brilliant work of science fiction. There are several other dramatisations, but listen to me, Tarkovsky is your man.

And the Cyberiad. Read that, too. This will be in the exam.
sans_pants
avec_pénis
(09-26-2017, 04:12 AM)
sans_pants's Avatar
He's great. I just finished fiasco which was really incredible. I'd probably rank the ones I've read solaris-fiasco-invincible-eden, but they are all interesting and well written

Once you finish lem check out the strugatsky bros
tonysidaway
Member
(09-26-2017, 04:16 AM)

Originally Posted by sans_pants


Once you finish lem check out the strugatsky bros

.
pa22word
Member
(09-26-2017, 04:22 AM)
pa22word's Avatar
Nicholsonyes.gif

The Invincible is probably my favorite Lem novel. It has all the bite of Verhoven's Starship Troopers without having to resort to parody and without limiting it's scope just to Facism to make its point about humanity.

Also check out Return from the Stars. Think Brave new world mixed with Halderman's Forever War. It's a relativity themed story based around the idea of a starfaring man returning from a long voyage abroad and dealing with the Otherness of humanity's new culture and his attempts to adapt to it upon his return 10 years his time turned into around 120 years on earth. It's a really interesting book from Len because it takes his usual themes and applies it from humanity to humanity vs humanity against other species. It hits a lot of the same notes that Brave New World does without descending into Huxley's utterly grating conservatism and condemnation of modern man's "slavery" to invention and instead seems more interested in lamenting the rapidity in which humanity perceives and rejects even it's own in its own search for internal harmony of the tribe, and Lem's attempts to try and find a way to bridge that divide between the two cultures without outright condemnation of either is really unique in fiction. Great book.

Edit: don't buy the kindle version of Return from the Stars. The transfer is abhorrent with words running into each other, words getting mangled in what was clearly a crappy scan job and coming out unreadable (made a thousand times worse due to the book's lingo for new tech), and sometimes even pages being displayed entirely out of order.
More_Badass
Member
(09-26-2017, 06:39 AM)
More_Badass's Avatar
Star Diaries’ Eleventh Voyage is another brilliant take on the robotic society story. It’s so clever
A Fish Aficionado
I am going to make it through this year if it kills me
(09-26-2017, 06:42 AM)
A Fish Aficionado's Avatar
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a masterpiece.
Lumpy Onion
Member
(09-26-2017, 06:50 AM)
I haven't read any of his work but I liked the movie adaptation of "The Astronauts" called First Spaceship on Venus. I guess it's probably not a very good movie since it was featured on MST3K but I though it was some interesting sci fi. I like stories about visiting planets and finding the remnants of civilizations who had vanished long ago and then piecing together what went wrong. Visually it was rather interesting to look at too with some great otherworldly designs.

I'll have to check out some of his writing.
Pat_DC
Member
(09-26-2017, 07:05 AM)
Pat_DC's Avatar
Will be keen to check out The Star Diaries as needed some new SciFi.

A little off topic can any one recommend a good site for buying ebooks in epub or another format that plays nice with android and isn't locked behind an app.
sans_pants
avec_pénis
(09-26-2017, 07:10 AM)
sans_pants's Avatar

Originally Posted by Lumpy Onion

I haven't read any of his work but I liked the movie adaptation of "The Astronauts" called First Spaceship on Venus. I guess it's probably not a very good movie since it was featured on MST3K but I though it was some interesting sci fi. I like stories about visiting planets and finding the remnants of civilizations who had vanished long ago and then piecing together what went wrong. Visually it was rather interesting to look at too with some great otherworldly designs.

I'll have to check out some of his writing.

damn near all of his books are about man trying to interact with aliens. fiasco, eden and invincible sound right up your alley
The Quiet Man
Member
(09-26-2017, 07:33 AM)
The Quiet Man's Avatar
Stanislaw Lem is one of the greatest sci-fi authors of all time. It's been years since I've read his books though, I think it's time for a re-read.
blu
Wants the largest console games publisher to avoid Nintendo's platforms.
(09-26-2017, 07:38 AM)
blu's Avatar
Lem is my favourite writer. Glad to see more people appreciate his work.
Myriadis
Member
(09-26-2017, 07:40 AM)
Myriadis's Avatar
I read Solaris and liked that one. A fairly realistic approach to the human contact with alien beings, and in this case the wrong actions of the alien lifeform which harms the visitors by trying to be benevolent. The soviet movie version from 1973 is also really great (with a great ambient/minimalist soundtrack!) even though it removes quite a bit from the book (then again, it would've been difficult to show the voyages through the sea back then). The book gets a bit too much into exposition towards the end but otherwise it's really solid.
BorkBork
The Legend of BorkBork: BorkBorkity Borking
(09-26-2017, 08:09 AM)
BorkBork's Avatar
Cyberiad and Solaris are amazing. Didn't like Eden too much, but I have Futurological Congress on my to read list.
Mr_Appleby
Member
(09-26-2017, 09:08 AM)
Mr_Appleby's Avatar
Lem is wonderful.

The first of his I read was The Invincible, when I was in highschool. Probably was a good place for me to start as it wasn't too dissimilar from other SF I was reading at the time.

I think my favourite is actually Memoirs found in a Bathtub, which is a wonderful bureaucratic nightmare set inside a "second Pentagon" that has sealed itself off from the outside world. Paranoia, conspiracy, double triple and quadruple agents. There is so much wordplay and sextuple-entendres that my hat is off to the translators for managing to come out with something readable and enjoyable at the end.

I'm also partial to his mysteries - The Investigation and Chain of Chance - which start out like classic detective fiction but turn out to be something else entirely.

Also Golem IV is entirely relevant when discussing AI, being a speech given by an ascendent AI to his creators. It's only short, found in Imaginary Magnitudes which is ostensibly a collection of forwards for books that don't exist. Including an advertising pamphlet for something that sounds suspiciously like Wikipedia.

Originally Posted by pa22word

Nicholsonyes.gif
Edit: don't buy the kindle version of Return from the Stars. The transfer is abhorrent with words running into each other, words getting mangled in what was clearly a crappy scan job and coming out unreadable (made a thousand times worse due to the book's lingo for new tech), and sometimes even pages being displayed entirely out of order.

This is the secret awfulness of kindle. Hack scans that nobody ever proofed, not even once. Roger Zelazny's This Immortal suffered terribly. At one point a character dies and they arrange for a funeral pyre. They place the body on the pyre, the protagonist approaches with a lit torch, and, in an exceptionally misfortunate merging of the letters 'rn', laments that "It was time to bum a friend."
Monocle
Member
(09-26-2017, 09:13 AM)
Monocle's Avatar
Sold. I'll check out the recommendations in this thread soon. Thanks!
Porcile
Member
(09-26-2017, 09:33 AM)
The Cyberiad is total genius.
PrawnyNZ
Member
(09-26-2017, 09:41 AM)
PrawnyNZ's Avatar

Originally Posted by A Fish Aficionado

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a masterpiece.

This is the only one of his I've read, found it tough going at first though I enjoyed it.
Think I need to reread it soon, suspect it will be easier the second time around.
Stumpokapow
listen to the mad man
(09-26-2017, 09:59 AM)
Stumpokapow's Avatar
The 2013 Ari Folman film "The Congress" is (very) loosely based on Lem's "The Futurological Congress" and I absolutely recommend the film, really one of the best of the 21st century. If you haven't seen it, check it out.
llien
Member
(09-26-2017, 10:13 AM)
llien's Avatar
He was brilliant, but a bit too philosopher to become very popular.

I'd second Strugatski Brothers advise, although they are quite a bit "lightweighter". Some of the references in their books are not understood outside USSR, perhaps that's why they did not become popular abroad (hands down the most popular sci-fi writers of USSR)
Sgt. Kabukiman
Banned
(09-26-2017, 10:28 AM)
I read Solaris as a teen because I was fascinated by the Tarkovski movie. But I've never read anything else by him for some reason. Hopefully I'll get to his other works at some point after I clear out my backlog a little bit.
More_Badass
Member
(09-26-2017, 12:46 PM)
More_Badass's Avatar

Originally Posted by Monocle

Sold. I'll check out the recommendations in this thread soon. Thanks!

I'd recommend The Cyberiad as a first book. It's funny and whimsical in a fairy tale way, while still diving into interesting sci-fi concepts and thought experiments. The Star Diaries as well

And both have some very clever and fun wordplay and humor.

Some excerpts from a Cyberiad story

One day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could create anything starting with n. When it was ready, he tried it out, ordering it to make needles, then nankeens and negligees, which it did, then nail the lot to narghiles filled with nepenthe and numerous other narcotics. The machine carried out his instructions to the letter. Still not completely sure of its ability, he had it produce, one after the other, nimbuses, noodles, nuclei, neutrons, naphtha, noses, nymphs, naiads, and natrium. This last it could not do, and Trurl, considerably irritated, demanded an explanation.

"Never heard of it," said the machine.

"What? But it's only sodium. You know, the metal, the element…"

"Sodium starts with an s, and I work only in n."

"But in Latin it's natrium."

"Look, old boy," said the machine, "if I could do everything starting with n in every possible language, I'd be a Machine That Could Do Everything in the Whole Alphabet, since any item you care to mention undoubtedly starts with n in one foreign language or another. It's not that easy. I can't go beyond what you programmed. So no sodium."

...But now here’s the third command: Machine, do Nothing!”

The machine sat still. Klapaucius rubbed his hands in triumph, but Trurl said, “Well, what did you expect? You asked it to do nothing, and it’s doing nothing.”

“Correction: I asked it to do Nothing, but it’s doing nothing.”

“Nothing is nothing!”

“Come, come. It was supposed to do Nothing, but it hasn’t done anything, and therefore I’ve won...

A Fish Aficionado
I am going to make it through this year if it kills me
(09-26-2017, 01:09 PM)
A Fish Aficionado's Avatar

Originally Posted by PrawnyNZ

This is the only one of his I've read, found it tough going at first though I enjoyed it.
Think I need to reread it soon, suspect it will be easier the second time around.

It is tough because it deals with a conspiracy minded dystopia.

Reminds me a little of Papers Please, but the book is about a world without paper.
ilium
Member
(09-26-2017, 01:14 PM)
ilium's Avatar
Yeah, Lem is fantastic. Love how wide ranging his work is, both in breath and depth.

Tyrant killing robo-spacefarer exploring humanity in a delightful Fairytale-Science-Fiction crossover; examination of communist governmentality and robotic sociology (among many other things) wrapped in a Baron Münchausen like space romp; inherent and structural limits of human evolution given as a lecture by an AI on its way to next level consciousness - but also classic Sci-Fi like human reaction to the unknown and unthinkable - told by bickering scholars of course. There's so much more that I'm not even sure how much of it really flew over my head.
His tendency to think concepts to their logical extreme makes a lot of his work really fun to read, and in some cases even prophetic - like his idea of a virtual reality in Summa Technologiae. Much of his work, and mostly his non-fiction and 'futurologistic' writing is heavily influenced by popular academic discourse of that time (especially cybernetics), making it feel conclusive but also a bit outdated at times.
Not that it matters much, Lem's work is still sublime Science-Fiction that takes its foundations serious enough to roll with it and have some fun along the way.


Philip K. Dick once assumed Lem to be a communist propaganda commitee, not a real person lmao. Dude had a serious grudge against Lem. Maybe because Lem owed Dick royalties and thought of US-American Science Fiction as poorly written. Took a while for the majority of his work to come to the US I read, maybe that's why he seems so unknown over there. He's rather popular in Europe for sure.
CTLance
(09-26-2017, 02:09 PM)
CTLance's Avatar
Watching OP advance through the last few SciFi threads and slowly succumb to Lem was a source of much glee for me. Heh.

Anyway. I absolutely love Lem and I appreciate that he still gets new fans even now. It's like he started by playing hide and seek with government censorship rules, then got so used to it that he turned it into an art form. This can become exhausting, for sure, but I enjoy how re-readable his works are. You can read his stories as they are and enjoy them, or you can savour each sentence as you chew and ponder on them.

Personally, I'm most nostalgic about Eden, and as such it's my personal favourite of his works.
I read it as a far-too-young kid, so much of Lems typical style went way over my head. It's still a great story of planetary exploration that ends up directed back inwards. Damn good stuff.
Not his best work (that honour probably goes to memoirs or fiasco?), but I'd really love to see it turned into a good movie one day. A good one, ya hear.
blu
Wants the largest console games publisher to avoid Nintendo's platforms.
(09-26-2017, 02:24 PM)
blu's Avatar

Originally Posted by More_Badass

I'd recommend The Cyberiad as a first book. It's funny and whimsical in a fairy tale way, while still diving into interesting sci-fi concepts and thought experiments. The Star Diaries as well

And both have some very clever and fun wordplay and humor.

Some excerpts from a Cyberiad story

“Come, come. It was supposed to do Nothing, but it hasn’t done anything, and therefore I’ve won...

That one surely ended well..

Just wait till your reach Altruizyn, though.
Mr_Appleby
Member
(09-26-2017, 03:59 PM)
Mr_Appleby's Avatar

Originally Posted by ilium

Philip K. Dick once assumed Lem to be a communist propaganda commitee, not a real person lmao. Dude had a serious grudge against Lem. Maybe because Lem owed Dick royalties and thought of US-American Science Fiction as poorly written and dumb. Took a while for the majority of his work to come to the US I read, maybe that's why he seems so unknown over there. He's rather popular in Europe for sure.

Lem didn't owe Dick royalties exactly.. as I understand it he helped get Ubik published in Poland, but due to Polish law at the time, to collect the royalties PKD would have to travel to Poland and do so in person, which he was unwilling to do.

Ironically PKD was the one American author that Lem admired.
More_Badass
Member
(09-26-2017, 04:17 PM)
More_Badass's Avatar

Originally Posted by blu

That one surely ended well..

Just wait till your reach Altruizyn, though.

Ha, yeah, that’s for sure

Also, the (Audible) audiobook for Cyberiad is fantastic. Lem’s wordplay and X-entendres really shines when read aloud, and the narrator is great.
DemWalls
Member
(09-26-2017, 05:19 PM)
DemWalls's Avatar
Every time I see Lem nominated I remember that I had started Solaris years ago, but stopped. Thing is, I don't even recall the reason, I was actually quite liking it.

Maybe the time to finally read it from beginning to end will come after I'm done with the two books I'm currently reading.
ilium
Member
(09-26-2017, 05:23 PM)
ilium's Avatar

Originally Posted by Mr_Appleby

Lem didn't owe Dick royalties exactly.. as I understand it he helped get Ubik published in Poland, but due to Polish law at the time, to collect the royalties PKD would have to travel to Poland and do so in person, which he was unwilling to do.

Ironically PKD was the one American author that Lem admired.

Ah, interesting haha. Only remembered something from a foreword I think.

Originally Posted by More_Badass

Ha, yeah, that’s for sure

Also, the (Audible) audiobook for Cyberiad is fantastic. Lem’s wordplay and X-entendres really shines when read aloud, and the narrator is great.

Never occurred to me to look for Lem's stuff as audiobooks. Maybe it'll help me appreciate his prose more, cause I find it (the german translation?) unwieldy to read at times..
pagrab
Member
(09-26-2017, 05:27 PM)
pagrab's Avatar
As you can see from my avatar I am also a huge Lem fan.

That he is not better known is especially sad because the English translations are excellent.
It might be that he just has this label of "hard" or "philosophical" writer stuck to him and that people do not know that his books are also very entertaining.
More_Badass
Member
(09-26-2017, 05:27 PM)
More_Badass's Avatar

Originally Posted by ilium

Never occurred to me to look for Lem's stuff as audiobooks. Maybe it'll help me appreciate his prose more, cause I find it (the german translation?) unwieldy to read at times..

Yeah, narration for Cyberiad, Star Diaries, and Memoirs are all very good.
blu
Wants the largest console games publisher to avoid Nintendo's platforms.
(09-27-2017, 10:34 AM)
blu's Avatar

Originally Posted by ilium

Never occurred to me to look for Lem's stuff as audiobooks. Maybe it'll help me appreciate his prose more, cause I find it (the german translation?) unwieldy to read at times..

For the fullest impact, you need to read Lem in Polish or in another Slavic language translation. Slavic languages are very flexible at word formation, and Lem uses that in full sway in his works.
ilium
Member
(09-27-2017, 11:52 AM)
ilium's Avatar

Originally Posted by blu

For the fullest impact, you need to read Lem in Polish or in another Slavic language translation. Slavic languages are very flexible at word formation, and Lem uses that in full sway in his works.

I think his wordcreations and wordplays translate pretty well into german actually, it's a language that loooves its compound words after all!
More_Badass
Member
(09-27-2017, 03:29 PM)
More_Badass's Avatar
Oh, nice, now Lem is tackling a consciousnesses transference story

The Cyberiad is fantastic.
Monocle
Member
(09-27-2017, 03:31 PM)
Monocle's Avatar

Originally Posted by More_Badass

I'd recommend The Cyberiad as a first book. It's funny and whimsical in a fairy tale way, while still diving into interesting sci-fi concepts and thought experiments. The Star Diaries as well

And both have some very clever and fun wordplay and humor.

Some excerpts from a Cyberiad story

Thanks a lot!
Gozan
Member
(09-27-2017, 03:40 PM)
Gozan's Avatar
Terminus is one of the best horror short stories I have ever read.

Thread Tools