I rate books base on my enjoyment and while this was an very interesting take on the whole alien first contact I can t say I had a lot of fun reading it.I do recommend it if you love that premise and are intrigue about a sentient ocean but it won t be for everyone A classic work of science fiction by renowned Polish novelist and satirist Stanislaw Lem.When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long dead lover Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts. We have no need of other worlds We need mirrors We don t know what to do with other worlds A single world, our own, suffices us but we can t accept it for what it is Bizarrely, being on a strange, different planet sometimes is what it takes to discover our inner cosmos The way Lem describes it in Solaris, our memories rule our perception of what is real, regardless of external circumstances On the other hand, the external circumstances of any given time are actively impacting on what kind of memories we develop, so it turns into a kind of circle or wave movement.To me, this book was scary And I don t mean the science fiction ideas in it I mean the idea that my unresolved feelings of earlier times could come back and haunt me literally On a deeper level, they do haunt me in any case, but the idea of them coming alive is terrifying That made me think that we embrace passing time as a placebo for all the big chunks of life we have spent in a less than agreeable way Solaris symbolises the fact that we can t escape ourselves, though, no matter how many galaxies of distance we put between ourselves and our now.We are the sum total of our memories and our feelings, and that dark ocean is hard to control Could one claim that Solaris is the science fiction version of Uncle Scrooge being visited by the Ghost of Old Marley et alii I m afraid I m a philistine I liked the Soderberg remake of the movie most, then the book, and last the original Tarkovsky movie If you re cultured and sophisticated, I think that you re supposed to have the exact opposite ordering Oh well.In my defense, I recall that, when I watched the Tarkovsky version, I looked around at one point and discovered that the people on both sides of me had fallen asleep As far as I can remember, this is the only time I ve ever see it happen. 11 11 11 Update Reflected on it a bit , and bumped up the rating to 5 stars Darn those coercive, psychic ocean mind waves Despite work, an appalling lack of sleep, work, life, work, copious amounts of laundry, work, and MORE WORK, I finally finished this little gem of a book I am giving it four stars for now, but depending on how I feel after I absorb of the book, I may bump up the rating Solaris is beautifully written, and the message behind the book is chilling if not eye opening In most sci fi, humans interact with non humans violently, peacefully, symbiotically, or however else we communicate with them the key words being interact and communicate However, Lem pushes us to think waaaay outside our comfortable, boxy way of thinking and makes us wonder what if there were beings so inherently different from us that we couldn t even begin to understand them Do we even fully understand ourselves enough to communicate clearly with them The planet Solaris is inhabited by one living organism a vast ocean that covers the entire planet Solarists, academics who study Solaris, attribute nomenclatures to various phenomena that occur in the organism The book is chock full of academic arguments about the psychology and behavior of the organism We quickly grasp, however, that despite the theorizing and debating, they know close to nothing about the ocean, whereas the ocean knowsso much Without spoiling the book, a psychologist named Kris Kelvin arrives in a space station above the ocean to study the organism However, after a series of x ray bombardments on the ocean s surface, the ocean reacts by somehow creating physical manifestations of the space station inhabitants repressed anguish and regrets In Kris s case, the ocean creates a striking likeness of his dead wife, whose memories has haunted him even before his arrival The exchanges between Kris and his wife were shocking, tragic, and quite eerie, especially since she 1 cannot die, 2 physically cannot be out of his presence, and 3 she s creation of the ocean, for heaven s sake As Kris s and his wife s relationship progresses, what becomes and evident is how little we know in comparison to how much we think we know Though the book spans a little over 200 pages, Lem tells a great story and presents interesting ideas The writing is stodgy at times Lem s style reminded me of academic papers written decades ago by professors locked for far too long in their ivory towers The story behind the writing, however, hooked, lined, and sinker ed me What were very dense passages, I blew right through with the concentrated focus that I should have employed often during school Even though sci fi, for the most part, is so much fun than political theories 4.5 and most probably 5 stars Highly recommended. This is the classic gothic horror haunted house story revisited with an SF twist It s a testament to the obtuseness of mankind, particularly unemotional, Cold War era, scientific man Three scientists on the remote planet Solaris seek contact with the lone enormous creature occupying it the ocean All sorts of experiments are tried over a century or , but the planet and the humans never achieve, at least to the humans satisfaction, adequate evidence of a measurable intellectual exchange The ocean busies itself morphing into these massive shapes geometic, organic, and otherwise which strike the reader as expressive, but which are nevertheless inarticulate in human terms When the scientists start bombarding the ocean with xrays, for lack of a better idea, the planet sends to each of them a visitor from an emotionally charged period of their own lives The simulacra are derived from their memories and dreams Kris Kelvin has just arrived on the planet In his case, the simulacrum assumes the identical physical appearance and personality of his late wife, Rheya, who took her own life years before The simulacra obviously constitute contact of a very high order, an enormously rich opportunity, it seems to me, to communicate one on one with the entity But the horrified scientists never see that They never talk to their visitors They never come clean Their fear drives them, purely fear, so all they can think of is a way to destroy the visitors Therefore, they miss their chance How sick and sad is that This reader came to understand what was necessary after about page 100 or so Yet the book drones on for another hundred pages The novel is imaginative, certainly, but it runs out of ideas far too soon The scientists never get it One grows disgusted with them The book never seems to end. When I was a kid my dad was obsessed with the idea of UFO s and alien contact He made me and my brother watch endless episodes of trashy American documentaries about sightings and abductions In fact, I sat through so many of these that I started to have nightmares about bug eyed extra terrestrial beings entering my room at night I guess that for my dad who did not have a partner, whose children were emotionally, if not physically, estranged from him, and whose job was not exactly stimulating the promise of other planets and other species, of being whisked away from his humdrum life, must have been pretty appealing While I too wanted to somehow escape the situation I found myself in, the prospect of other worlds or beings never fired my imagination I found it difficult enough to get my head around the behaviour and motivations of humans, I had enough problems understanding my own world, that the possibility of engaging meaningfully with aliens struck me as, to all intents and purposes, impossible.For this same reason, I have never been particularly drawn to Sci Fi The writers and books I most enjoy are ones that I believe contain insights about human nature, that help me come to terms with who I am and how my world works This is, I guess, where Stanislaw Lem comes in First of all, Lem himself was not particularly enamoured of the genre, he thought the majority of it too reliant upon the adventure story formula My introduction to the Pole s work was His Master s Voice, and, on the basis of that novel, I could see why he considered himself as a kind of outlier in the Science Fiction community The plot is almost non existent, and entirely plausible there are no weird creatures, no space travel More than anything, His Master s Voice is a speculative, philosophical novel of ideas that says about us than it does about what is potentially out there And so is this one.Having said that, Solaris provides conventional, less cerebral enjoyment than His Master s Voice, and is therefore approachable Lem may have been critical of Science Fiction s use of the adventure story formula, but the dynamics of Solaris plot are borrowed from the equally formulaic horror thriller genre Doctor Kris Kelvin arrives on the space station that has been studying the planet Solaris, and which is meant to be manned by three other people However, Kelvin finds that one of them is blind drunk and clearly spooked, one has locked himself in his laboratory, and the other is dead Of course, he is suspicious and senses that something is wrong Not only is Snow visibly shaken, but he has blood on his hands alarming noises are coming from Sartorius lab and Kelvin himself feels as though he is being watched As the narrative progresses things get even stranger there are, it is revealed, other people on board and it is not clear how they got there or whether they are friendly Successive bursts of static came through the headphones, against a background of deep, low pitched murmuring, which seemed to me the very voice of the planet itself While all this is lots of fun, and genuinely tense and unnerving at times, especially if you haven t seen either of the two film adaptations, if it was all Solaris had to offer it s unlikely that I would rate the book so highly In order to begin to explain why I do I would, first of all, point to a quote from the text, which is How do you expect to communicate with the ocean, when you can t even understand one another This, for me, sums up the philosophical, emotional heart of the novel The ocean is the alien life form if it is indeed alive it certainly displays behaviour consistent with being alive and appears to exhibit some kind of intelligence that resides upon Solaris As with His Master s Voice, Lem is interested in what alien actually means The ocean is absolutely non human, and is, therefore, not accessible to us, can never be accessible to us, because we can only attempt to understand it by using human concepts, ideas, reasoning etc.The focus here is not on the personality or capabilities of the ocean, but on our own limitations and arrogance At one point in the book Lem writes that we, the human race, are not actually interested in the genuinely alien, but simply want to extend the boundaries of the human world In other words, confronted with something that we do not understand, that we can never understand, we want to explain, to interpret it in human terms in essence, we strive to find all things human I found all this blistering stuff, and it is something I see around me every day Not with aliens, of course, but with animals, cars, mountains, and so on Consider how what most pleases or charms us about our pets are the moments when we can see ourselves in them, when they do something that we see as being recognisably human We have no need of other worlds We need mirrors We don t know what to do with other worlds A single world, our own, suffices us but we can t accept it for what it is For a book that is on the surface concerned with our relationship or non relationship with the alien, Solaris somehow manages to be extraordinarily moving That is all down to Rheya I must admit that she broke my heart There are a number of ways to interpret her role in the novel, just as there is than one Rheya First of all, there is the original Rheya, the young woman who Kelvin was married to, who took her own life years before he came to be on a space station on Solaris, and whose death he feels responsible for Therefore, the counterfeit Rheya, Rheya2, the one who turns up at the space station, could be said to be a physical manifestation of Kelvin s grief or guilt In this way, Rheya2 is a kind of tormentor it is not a blessing for Kelvin to be confronted with a facsimile of the woman he feels as though he failed and treated badly, a woman who looks so much like her but isn t her No, it is a form of torture.It is also possible to interpret Rheya s appearances in the text outside of any alien context Throughout my reading I kept returning to that key line, How do you expect to communicate with the ocean, when you can t even understand one another We know that Kelvin and Rheya had a tumultuous relationship on earth, one that ended with an argument and the woman committing suicide With Rheya2, Kelvin re enacts this relationship If you forget that she is non human for a moment, the interactions between the couple are indistinguishable from the interactions of any couple going through a rough time, a couple that isn t communicating well, who keep things from each other, who snap at and goad each other out of exasperation, who love and need each other but cannot, despite their best intentions, always show each other the patience and affection that they ought to In this way, Solaris is a classic marriage in crisis narrative it is a novel about the intense hardships of love.Finally, and most heartrending of all, there is the issue of personal identity Rheya2 is, in the beginning, ignorant of what she is she believes herself to be Rheya, a human woman in love with a human man named Kris Kelvin She is, therefore, not a malevolent entity, not consciously anyway As the narrative progresses, she senses that something is wrong she doesn t need to eat or sleep, she cannot be physically hurt, she remembers very little of her life before Solaris, and she cannot bear i.e it causes her intense physical pain to be away from Kelvin for longer than a minute or so Eventually, her true situation, the true nature of her being, dawns on her, and, I m not ashamed to admit, I had a lump in my throat the size of a football A still from Andrei Tarkovsky s film adaptation of the book There is something about this set up, about a being who believes herself to be human, who feels human, who has a human consciousness, and human emotions, suddenly realising that she has been created by an alien presence, for reasons that are not clear, that really got to me Her confusion, her anxiety, her struggle, her bravery and nobility yes, I am aware of how ridiculous this sounds, but I m in earnest here in coming to terms with herself all but ruined me And here s the rub, who or what exactly is she Isn t she Rheya She is not the same as the original Rheya, that is true, but what does that prove There is a woman in front of Kelvin, whose heart beats, who breathes, who calls herself Rheya, so who, or what, else can she be There is a point in the text, when Kelvin says that he no longer sees Rheya and Rheya2 as the same person, that he accepts and loves Rheya2 as herself The nature of personal identity is thorny just what is it that makes you, you Your memories, your appearance, your personality Rheya2 ticks all these boxes Solaris makes you ask, is Rheya2 a facsimile or is she a distinct person Is she a person at all If not, why not I could go into all this in detail, but I ll quit while some readers are still with me Before concluding, I want to quickly deal with the translation I have read Solaris twice, once, and first, in the most recent and only rendering directly from Polish For this reread, I read the version that is widely available, which is a translation from a French translation from the Polish I loved the book in both versions Moreover, despite Lem s claim that the Polish French English translation is inadequate, and taking into consideration my own concerns about authenticity and accurate translations, I thought it was smooth and not at all inferior to the version translated directly from the original I would have to read both versions simultaneously, or at least close together, to be able to compare them in detail, but I do think, taking into account its negative reputation, that the Polish French English version ought to be defended I criticise translations a lot, and no doubt some people think I am too picky, but I am genuinely happy that the version of Solaris that most people will come across is an excellent read, because, whether you like Sci Fi or not, you should read Solaris It is as engaging, thrilling, intelligent and beautiful as any novel you will ever encounter. Although the book was written back in 1960, the last century, I must admit that I did not notice it at all This book is a timeless masterpiece of science fiction Everything we know about the universe in the book there is a review, not to speak of the human psyche that the writer brought to the last hidden parts of humanity The book examines all At the end of what we know about the universe, only tiny details and the man is not at all aware of what hidden in the vastness of the stars The whole book permeated by challenging the planet Solaris, which is, in fact, a living being For years, scientists theorize, that are falling like the cards because everything is known humankind just does not fit the mold that people imagined, and the various theories tried to explain The story takes us on a space station Solaris, which has stationed three hundred meters above sea level New Scientist Kelvin to take office at the station as a researcher planet First, it reveals that the leader of the expedition was dead and that the other two members of the team are acting strangely But soon will discover the reason for his materializes long dead girl Harey All his knowledge and love she felt for her coming to trial The book I would recommend to all fans of science fiction, I enjoyed in the author s imagination. I ve been meaning to read this for a while, and bought the book years ago because I know Lem is one of the greats of SF Plus, I figured if they made a movie out of it, the story had to have some good staying power But I had a hard time getting into it True, I haven t read much Sci fi lately But I m certainly not a genre snob I like me some Sci fi, vintage or otherwise But the story just felt cumbersome to me Half of it was an engaging psychological teaser thriller mystery, the other half read like the research bibliography covering 100 years of fictional science surrounding a fictional planet The first half was pretty good The second half was numbing It s possible that I was missing some cunning interplay between these two parts of a book, but if that s the case, then that level of the book was utterly lost on me. , magnum opus Stanis aw Lem, Solaris ,.