Another great book. Lem is a Polish writer from the mid-c20th. He is one of those names you hear all the time, and I thought that if I’m doing a tour de force of science fiction authors I’d better have him included. That, and I’d seen Solarius the movie a while back and wanted to see what the book was like.

Well, the movie was decidedly ordinary, and from what I can remember centres on the relationship between the protagonist, Kelvin, and his mysteriously resurrected girlfriend. The book is quite different, and while the object remains (the resurrected gf), the main subject is in fact the alien power that causes her to reappear in Kelvin’s life.

Apparently there’s a Russian movie adaptation of the book. Maybe I should be reading that… pesky Hollywood and it’s shitty films…

The book is about a space station studying an alien planet that is covered in a vast, and apparently sentient ocean. Kelvin arrives to study it, but finds the station in disarray. There are only two residents of the station, and both are acting mysteriously. Not long after his arrival Kelvin realises that something is profoundly wrong with the station… It’s resurrecting the loved one’s of the stations inhabitants, and has already driven one scientist to suicide. Creepy…

Solarius is a book about the impossibility of understanding completely alien life forms, and is a very good exploration of the idea. It transpires that the resurrection of Rheya, the gf, is an attempt by the ocean to communicate with the researchers. Or, perhaps to torture them? The book is decidedly dark, and lends itself to the reader thinking the latter.

By the end of the novel however, when Rheya is finally removed from Kelvin’s life, it is apparent that the real story is the impossibility of the kind of communication we associate with other humans, or even mammals. Lem does an amazing job of outlining how this impossibility would be realised by humans, and the impact that the contact with such a alien life form would have on emotive people. He takes his characters through a great range of responses to Solarius, from shock, to anger, to exhaustion, to resolution.

A thoroughly good, and philosophical read.