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Fiasco

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  1,455 ratings  ·  103 reviews
The planet Quinta is pocked by ugly mounds and covered by a spiderweb-like network. It is a kingdom of phantoms and of a beauty afflicted by madness. In stark contrast, the crew of the spaceship Hermes represents a knowledge-seeking Earth. As they approach Quinta, a dark poetry takes over and leads them into a nightmare of misunderstanding. Translated by Michael Kandel. A ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published July 18th 2012 by Mariner Books (first published 1986)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,651)
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Alex
This is one of the best, and also one of the most brutal, books I've ever read. It is a hard read. This is not a book for the faint; it explores, as does a lot of communist science fiction, the utter impossibility of rational exchange between crazy-different cultures. Also a lot in here about the failings of man.

Not a book for the faint of heart.
Jake
Fiasco is a deeply pessimistic science fiction novel. It's about the typical hard sci-fi topic: first contact between humans and aliens. And as in "Rendezvous With Rama," "The Forever War," and "The Mote in God's Eye," much of the fun is the detailed imagining of how interstellar space travel would actually work, complete with relativistic time distortion and keeping humans alive in alien worlds. What separates this book from those others is Lem's belief that true understanding between different ...more
William
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik Erickson
Philosophical. Hard. Interminable.

The premise is fascinating and unique: what if we finally make contact with aliens but they have zero interest in meeting or even communicating with us?

Unfortunately we have to endure every discussion involved in answering that question, including all of the details of the future history required to understand it, and in painstaking detail, over the course of however long it takes to finally reach the other intelligent beings in another galaxy.

At times it is ama
...more
Josh
I had a hard time reading this book. Not because it's not interesting--I think it deals with some of the most interesting themes in the world--but because Lem makes it really hard to read. It's provocative and fascinating as hell, but damn, it's not very fun to read.
Gregory
I consider this Lem's masterpiece. A brilliant story showing a step by step undermining of ideals in the face of foreign thinking, incomplete infornation, suspicion, and prejudices.
Mark Schomburg
Very thought provoking science fiction! To more fully enjoy the English translation of this book it would help to know some Latin, as much physics as possible especially of the black hole variety, and introductory game theory. The nice thing about this book's approach is that it is set in a distant enough future and location that it is free from simplistic political and scientific connections to the twentieth century. Surprisingly, SETI is the main tie-in to the history of space exploration for ...more
Luka Antonić
It seems that cultural difference between human and alien civilization is one of the major themes of Lem's books, judging by previously read novel The Invincible and Tarkovsky's adaptation of Solaris.

I must admit that this is the very first science fiction work which I found boring. Introduction is unnecessarily too long, as well as the whole book. Going into every single detail, Lem's writing style in Fiasco is closed to be called "tolstoyesque", apart from the fact that he is far from being To
...more
Michinio Camorelli
One of there rare recent books that would make me think I'm always wasting time whenever I'm not reading it. As usual for Lem, the book is full of futuristic philosophical topics, magnificent and 'realistic' explanations of future technologies, detailed description of yet non-existing (and maybe also never-existing) concepts. and what I like in Lem's novels most is that he can easily place the reader into the world he created to experience his heroes' feelings, to see what they see, hear what th ...more
Piotr
As a teenager, growing up un Poland, I read and loved every book written by Stanislaw Lem. He was the science-fiction writer by whom any other writer was measured. His alegorical, intelligent books touched on philosophy, psychology, sociology, but did not shy from humour and satire. Now, a couple of decades later, I got to read Lem's last, I believe, science-fiction novel, the one I didn't get to read as a student.
Lem's unique language, full of obscure, old-fashioned words triggered some nostalg
...more
Ed Holden
This book is not boring at all -- in fact it deals with a lot of fascinating ideas -- but damn it has problems. Not the least of which is the writing style, which might suffer from a bad translation but I doubt it. Much of the second half of the book is pure tell-don't-show, which must have started out that way in the original Polish unless the translator has been horribly irresponsible, and I would've loved to have instead read those scenes through the POV of a character. Lem can do this: we kn ...more
eva
i adored the first section of fiasco, in that annoying hold-on-let-me-just read-you-this-one-paragraph way; parvis's solo trek across titan, ruminating on its lifeless beauty, is a perfect example of lem's ability to portray both breathtaking wonder and unforgiving bleakness at the same time. i also liked the introduction of tempe, which was done in an interesting & sympathetic enough way that it avoided coming off like a total sci-fi cliche.

the story started lagging for me when the quintan
...more
Damian Murphy
This is a tough one, even for Lem fans. Stick with it though, the long, dense build up in the beginning pays off.
Like many of Lem's other works, this book documents the complete lack of cultural reference points, and thus any basis for communication whatsoever, between human and alien intelligence. In this case, repeated mis-communication leads to the worst of all possible outcomes. A fiasco indeed.
The book contains some very interesting musings concerning human conceptions of alien life and th
...more
بهمن بهمن
در هر حال من به عنوان کسی که عاشق کتاب های علمی تخیلیه ، کارهای لم رو از همه نویسنده ای علمی تخیلی بیشتر دوست دارم .ولی این یکی کارش رو مثل قبلی ها نپسندیدم
Mihwa
Fiasco is a hard read. It's philosophical SF with a nihilist bent, and there are no corners cut discussing the speculative technologies. The bulk of the story occurs onboard a spaceship attempting to make contact with an alien civilization (think Rendezvous with Rama actually meeting Rama's creators). Fermi's paradox is invoked and addressed in true hard SF fashion, which is to say by drawing energy from stars and slingshotting through black holes and contemplating increasingly complex analogies ...more
Javier Cantero
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Goran K
This is one of the classics of the SF genre and I believe every SF fan out there should read it at least once.

Lem is one of my favorite "old" SF authors, and Fiasco is one of his best works.

Story is divided in two parts, with second part being much more interesting to me, but without first part it would feel incomplete. I don't want to get into details about story, I'll just explain how it felt... and it felt pessimistic.

I was hearth-broken by the end of it. Not because of an ending, not because
...more
Jeff Miller
As a first contact book this one is pretty much different from any other one I have read. Lots of interesting ideas and a very different situation. Although the book was a bit long in setting up the situation and becomes a much different story a bit farther in.
Jay
Ridiculously inventive hard sci-fi, although the story's a bit of a downer. (It's called Fiasco for a reason.) Detailed passages about sidereal travel and game theory slow things down and begin to feel like padding, but I get it. Very powerful finish.
W.D. Smart
A very good read, but as stated in many other reviews I've read, not for the casual sci-fi fan. There's lots of very technical discussions and inferences (many fictional) that could put off all but the most ardent sci-fi aficionado - like me! Also as mentioned in other reviews are a lot of typos in the Kindle version, and I agree with the speculation above that it's probably due to creating the e-book using OCR on a printed manuscript. An example of a typo is an "r" bleeding into following "n" w ...more
Randal
Feb 16, 2015 Randal rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Shelves: sci-fi
Brilliant, dense. The best first contact novel I can recall reading. Lem is slowly becoming one of my favorite sci-fi novelists. I don't find his stuff on the shelves that much -- never have -- but every time I pick one up I'm pretty much blown away. The combination of the scope and the humanity sets him apart from most of his peers, who seem limited to doing one or the other at any given time.
Without giving away the ending, the last 20 pages of this book are as compelling a read as I have encou
...more
Nelson Minar
This might well be the last Lem novel I ever read: I got a lot out of a couple of his books, but the ones I've read more recently have been lost on me. Fiasco was really difficult for me to finish: the plot was predictable, the characters uninteresting, and even the story itself was only vaguely compelling. Humans find another planet, and through a miracle of time reversal manage to travel there. Lem takes this as an opportunity to tell a story about how difficult it would be for humans to inter ...more
Patrick Gibson
FIRST: Lots of complaints about the eBook format. It’s the worst I have encountered. The occasional lack of punctuation makes for some interesting (and frustrating) sentences. There are words I am not even sure are words—even in science fiction. Suspend your anger—since this book has been out of print for a long time and e-format is your only choice.

NOW THE BOOK: Human nature and the universe we inhabit are both presented in all their forms, and this complicated web of physics, psychology, game
...more
Bbrown
Starts out great, but after its initial third Lem spends too much time on fake science and has characters behave too stupidly to be believable. Despite the themes skillfully weaved into the early parts of this book, the rest fails to capitalize on this, and so Fiasco falls far short of one of Lem's other novels about attempted contact, Solaris. I'll be comparing Fiasco to Solaris frequently throughout this review, so if you've haven't read the latter consider yourself warned- and also, go read S ...more
Tom Tresansky
Philosophical, intellectual SF which is alternately amusing, tragic, exasperating and frightening. I love First Contact stories, and I think this one will stick in my head for awhile. The conceit of making Contact with a planet which just doesn't want to is explored brilliantly.

The book does take too long to get to the CETI mission, and the opening is dreary reading which is incidental to the major plot, though has thematic resonance with the ending that I can appreciate. Everything really picks
...more
Rita Monticelli
Scroll down for the English version.


Quasi un trattato (fanta)scientifico

Ho affrontato la lettura di questo libro con le immagini del film "Solaris" (tratto dall'omonimo romanzo sempre di Lem) negli occhi, in particolare ricordandone l'estrema lentezza. Per questo motivo mi aspettavo un libro dai ritmi lenti e su questo non sono certo stata smentita, ma "Il pianeta del silenzio" è qualcosa di diverso.
La lentezza dell'azione non è fine a se stessa, ma è dovuta alle lunghe digressioni e spiegazi
...more
Falsedan
This is the novel that should have been adapted into a movie.

Pirx the pilot is missing presumed dead on Titan when Parvis, a young navigator, arrives at the wrong spaceport. He sets off to Birnam Wood to rescue the renown pilot, but his vehicle suffers a catastrophic failure, forcing Parvis to utilise the last-resort cryogenic safety system.

A hudred or so years later, the Eurydice launches from Titan with the frozen remnants found in Birnam Woods aboard. One man is resuscitated but with no memor
...more
Nate
Themes enter and depart this novel, almost in a ghostly way. Plot elements are built-up and then wind-down at their own pace, few of them connecting with one-another as part of a greater plot. The book is like a tide-pool of science fiction--technologies, philosophy, interaction, contact with the unknown, etc. The first section is about solitude and the romantic, cold, ice-formation-filled emptiness of Titan. The second, one of two pilots (once lost on Titan) can be resurrected--but who's who an ...more
Reinhold
Eine Expedition vom Menschen versucht mit einer außerirdischen Zivilisation in Kontakt zu treten, es kristallisiert sich aber bald heraus, daß sich das gesamten Planetensystem in einem hundertjährigem kalten Krieg befindet, die Menschen geraten zwischen die Fronten und beschwören einen Weltuntergang herauf...
Der Roman gilt als Lehrstück über den Wahnwitz des Wettrüstens...
Chris
This was a book that I didn't fully appreciate until after I had finished and looked back over it in total. The writing and/or translation didn't flow particularly well and the many long diversions into theories, paradoxes, and other scientific snippets interrupt the narrative further. I struggled with finding the meaning of the opening act, and still haven't made a satisfying connection. But once the pieces are put together they form a crushing tale of first contact, an alien species that is sh ...more
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Stanisław Lem (staˈɲiswaf lɛm) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer of Jewish descent. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of Solaris, which has twice been made into a feature film. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon claimed that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the w ...more
More about Stanisław Lem...
Solaris The Cyberiad The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy Tales of Pirx the Pilot The Star Diaries: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy

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“A man craves ultimate truths. Every mortal mind, I think, is that way. But what is ultimate truth? It's the end of the road, where there is no more mystery, no more hope. And no more questions to ask, since all the answers have been given. But there is no such place.
The Universe is a labyrinth made of labyrinths. Each leads to another. And wherever we cannot go ourselves, we reach with mathematics. Out of mathematics we build wagons to carry us into the nonhuman realms of the world.”
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“Physics, my friend, is a narrow path drawn across a gulf that the human imagination cannot grasp. It is a set of answers to certain questions that we put to the world, and the world supplies the answers on the condition that we will not then ask it other questions, questions shouted out by common sense. And common sense? It is that which is understood by an intelligence using senses no different from those of a baboon. Such an intelligence wishes to know the world in terms that apply to its terrestrial, biological niche. But the world—outside that niche, that incubator of sapient apes—has properties that one cannot take in hand, see, sniff, gnaw, listen to, and in this way appropriate.” 1 likes
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