Stanislaw Lem
Fiasco Cover



Fiasco by Stanislaw Lem (translated by Michael Kandor) is another dazzling display of Lem's brilliance. This novel has outstanding world building - with detailed descriptions of alien planets, environments, and formations, but as wild and fantastical as they can get, they are always backed by principles of physics, chemistry, geology and meteorology. The science fiction filled with reality is a fantasy that Lem is especially adept at creating. Second, his explanations of space travel, the physics of time and space are equally detailed, so much so that it becomes easy for a reader to believe that the space traveling technology created in this book should be plausible. Lem knows his science and resolutely and skillfully bends and blends it into his narrative. As another famous Sc-fi character was fond of quoting, "Fascinating." Of even greater interest are the speculations and conjectures that abound in the book over/about the evolution of life, the evolution of societies/cultures/intelligence, and the evolution of technologies. Also what it means to know oneself, and the possibility of recognizing and communicating with another intelligent species.

As the title makes clear, Lem's view is not particularly optimistic, not only of human technological abilities for communication, but also of our psychological functions and intentions, and perhaps even what we think of as our intelligence.

This is not a novel for anyone looking for a quick adventure filled plot line, or deeply realized characters, since most exist primarily as a role (Captain, Doctor, Priest, Physicist) or as a perspective/position rather than as a person. It is a slow, detailed, thought probing investigation.And it is something that I all ready look forward to re-reading.