EPS Review #202 - Solaris

Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem, faber and faber, 1970(1961), 214pp.

Well, this choice for our book club really showed the difference between those who do and do not like Science Fiction. I thought Solaris was a good piece of work in the unknowable-alien category, but others found it plain boring. I liked the planet-sized ball of protoplasm, its easily-bored pseudopods, its odd fractal "mimoid" islands/thoughts/artwork/tumors. I liked that humans had tried to understand it for hundreds of years, with Lem's invented philosophical history, and mostly given up. The main drama involves human simulacra dredged from deep memories. Are near-perfect imitations of humans still human? And is it poignant when they realise what they are? Would you be happy in a simulation? These are now old SF themes, but never fail to intrigue me. As I said, they bored our earthbound members, who struggled to finish the book. They pointed out that only Kelvin, the protagonist, has any sort of character, and the others are simply ideas. They laughed at the idea of books in a space station (well, so did I) and did not fathom the ending. Why did Kelvin destroy his simulated lover (who had committed suicide when he left her, many years previously), then change his mind and come back looking for more? These same readers liked The Road and Never Let Me Go, which I did not. I think the difference is the treatment of the scientific ideas. Either they fascinate you or they do not. They did not fascinate Archie, who even makes films of intellectual history. Coincidentally, I was just watching Feynman's lectures as brought to us by Bill Gates, and Feynman starts by repudiating the Renaissance statement that the proper study of man is man. I agree with his point about science, but I doubt whether he convinced anyone who did not already feel that way.

So far the only crossover book that we all liked was Cloud Atlas.

I looked at trailers for both the Russian and Soderbergh movies, and don't feel inclined to see either.

Tim wrote: I might be willing to give soderbergh a go; often lousy books make surprisingly good films.

Tom wrote: Started Soderbergh and then turned off. Looked too slow and grim. I liked Sex, Lies, and Videotape, though.

Paul wrote: The russian movie is worth renting but is sort of deeply dull in some ways. Didn't see the soderberg Also haven't read the book. I read some other lem - forget what - and found it a tad dated. Wonder if I had read solaris 20 years ago if I would have enjoyed it. Maybe I should try again

Scott wrote: I love this novel. I like many Soderbergh films, but not this one. It's no good. I love the Tarkovsky version, it's one of the very few DVDs I have bought for myself. Like the book, it's slow going at times, but I think it's brilliant. Just sayin'. :-)