Audiobook Review: Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris by Stanisław Lem

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 1961

This story could easily have gone down a dark, even horror-based path,  […] but the book really surprised me with the touching and even practical way it dealt with the intense emotions.

After listening to METAtropolis and really enjoying Alessandro Juliani‘s narration of John Scalzi short story, I vowed to find more. Delving into my consciousness as Amazon usually does, it presented me with Solaris as an Audible Daily Deal just a week later. I’m used to Amazon, Google and Steam tripping into my thoughts and tempting me with my desires, but listening to Solaris gave me pause…

Kris Kelvin arrives on the station above the planet Solaris where a strange phenomenon has perplexed scientists and philosophers for years. The planet is covered in an “ocean,” but upon closer inspection, that ocean appears to actually be a living organism. Experimentation is difficult as the organism does not respond in any predictable way and no experiment can be successfully duplicated. One particularly illegal experiment leads to what could well be the entity beginning its own experimentation on its observers by delving into their memories. The result is the recreation of disturbingly real loved ones.

Not long into the audiobook, Juliani had successfully wiped all traces of George Clooney from my mind and I settled in to enjoy the bittersweet story that so smoothly combines science and emotion. There is a LOT of science in this book. Sometimes dauntingly so, but it is not so daunting that I completely zoned out or even failed to understand any of it. The scientific discussions and theories existed in and around Kelvin’s interactions with the small crew, and with his long dead lover.

This story could easily have gone down a dark, even horror-based path, considering the insanity that infects his colleagues as a result of dealing with their personal memories brought back to life, but the book really surprised me with the touching and even practical way it dealt with the intense emotions.

This is, by far, one of the better alien encounter stories I’ve enjoyed, possibly because it actually gives us a very alien alien, rather than a human in an alien body. The ocean and its descriptions are fascinating, as is the entire concept of it learning about humanity in this manner.

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