Monday, May 12, 2014

Kicking off Space week! and Book Review: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

It's Space Week on the blog! This one kind of happened by accident but then I just ran with it. This is the one work of fiction that you'll be getting this week but it's a goodie. Enjoy!

Before we get to the book review can we talk about how great the name Stanislaw is? That's a great name. Anyway, Solaris a very important book in the world of science fiction. A lot of the genre's famous books and movies are built on this work's shoulders, even though it weighs in at a small 237 pages (my version page count).

Our story starts with Dr Kelvin being transferred from the space ship in which he traveled from earth over to a research vessel that is hovering above Solaris. By the time Dr Kelvin arrives to study Solaris people have known of it's existence for over a hundred years, however they know very little about it. It seems to be a "sentient ocean". It's kind of liquidy and it seems to move in waves, and sometimes if a person tries to make contact with it it will move out of the way. It seems to be indifferent to most attempts to study it but it isn't always the case.  Dr Kelvin arrives at the Station all bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to get his science on. He was invited to conduct research there at the invitation of one of his mentors, Dr Gibarian so he's excited for a little reunion with him as well.

As soon as he steps foot onto the Station he thinks something is amiss (and he is right). The Station is a disaster; there are things spilled all over the floor, papers everywhere and just kind of a disaster zone. He finally finds one of the other 3 researchers on board, Dr. Snow. Dr. Snow goes into full blown panic mode when he Kelvin, freaking out asking who he is and what he is doing there. Kelvin is incredulous, his transport ship had talked to Snow that morning and everything had been fine.Snow explains that something is very wrong on the ship, and that he isn't really able to explain it, that Kelvin will just have to see it for himself. (Kelvin is pretty sure that Snow is out-his-darn-mind at this point. Space craziness does happen.)

Snow then explains that this morning he and Dr Sartorius (the other researcher) found Gibarian dead inside of his closet in his room, having committed suicide. This is all too much for Kelvin to take in. He traveled for 6 months from earth to get here, and it turns out "here" is a nuthouse. He leaves to go to his room and Snow ominously reminds him that if he sees a "visitor" to not engage or antagonize them. Kelvin storms off to his room for a shower. Later on Kelvin is walking down a hallway is shocked when he sees a huge, Amazonian, topless, black woman, with "arms the size of thighs" and wearing a kind of grass skirt walk past him without acknowledging him. Um, WHAT? Kelvin finds Snow and has some questions like "what the hell is going on?!"

Snow explains that each of them have been having visitors, the lady in the hall was Gibrain's. Each visitor is someone they have a strong connection to, for various reasons. (On a side note we never find out who the other Drs. visitors are. There are a couple of clues that Sartorius's might be a child in a straw hat. No hints on Snow's). Do these visitors have something to do with Solaris? Is it a mass hallucination? And that night Kelvin comes face to face with his visitor.

One of my favorite parts of this book is a super little sentence. Kelvin and Snow are talking in the library and Kelvin notices that he is standing next to a large cabinet with a door ajar, and that he has one hand awkwardly placed inside like someone is hiding in there and he is holding their hand. Ah, creepy but wonderful! I give this book a 3.5 out of 5 stars, it's seminal, it's short and it's awesome.



  1. Space Week!! I love Space. I wish more people were still interested in space. I follow NASA on facebook and am always loving to see their posts. Can't wait to see what else you have in store this week.

    1. NASA has a great instagram feed too, the pictures they post are amazing!

  2. God the more I think about Solaris, the more I've decided that I really, really like it. After I finish my current book goal (all of the TIME Top 100 list), I'm going to make a point of hunting this one down in French. Sometimes the writing was so clunky I wished I could read it in the original Polish. I think every English edition is translated from a French translation of the Polish and so you get a whisper-down-the-lane effect; at least with a French translation you're that much closer to the original source. And if not, well: good to keep the little gray cells active, I guess!

    1. It's one of those books that kind of hangs in the back of your mind a lot I think. Isn't it amazing that they've made 3 movies and they're all kind of meh? (by general consensus at least). It is a little clunky at times, but I think you're right, it's translational issue.


Thank you so much for your comment. I'd love to talk books with you!