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The Chain of Chance

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  546 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Written in the style of a detective novel, The Chain of Chance is classic Lem: a combination of action, hard science, and philosophical investigation. An ex-astronaut is hired to look into the death of several wealthy businessmen. The authorities suspect a pattern, but neither the police nor a supercomputer enlisted for the investigation can crack the case.

On a trail leadi
Paperback, 179 pages
Published March 28th 2000 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1975)
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This was my first Lem, and I picked it up "by chance" as it were, at a used book sale a few months ago. I don't usually read "speculative" fiction, but Lem is considered to be one of the genre's great masters, perhaps best known for "Solaris" which has twice been made into a film.

"The Chain of Chance" also riffs on the detective genre, featuring as its main character a paunchy middle-aged American former astronaut who is seeking to "solve" a series of unexplained and mysterious deaths of paunchy
Lukasz Pruski
The world mainly knows Stanislaw Lem as a science fiction writer. Wikipedia says that toward the end of the 20th century he was the most widely read science fiction writer in the world and that his books were translated from Polish into over 40 languages and sold over 45 million copies. His famous novel "Solaris" was adapted for movies three times. However, saying that Mr. Lem was a science fiction writer is akin to calling Thomas Jefferson an architect. Yes, Mr. Jefferson was quite an accomplis ...more
Nov 28, 2009 Joe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Everyone's familiar with the philosophical joke that if you give enough monkeys with typewriters enough time, one of them will eventually produce the complete works of William Shakespeare through sheer chance. But what's not discussed is the possibility that Shakespeare himself is one of those monkeys, and that the probability of some person, somewhere producing his works was just as high as it was for the monkeys.

In Stanislaw Lem's The Chain of Chance, we're presented with a bipolar murder mys
Michael Battaglia
In Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow" there was a sequence that noted that the worst fear of a paranoid wasn't that all their fears were true and everyone really was out to get them, but just the opposite: that nothing at all was connected and the universe is just a string of random coincidences that we superimpose a kind of purpose onto to make ourselves feel better.

With that said, let's go watch one of Lem's characters try to solve a mystery! Ha-hah!

I came to Lem mostly through his more SF oriented
An ex-astronaut, some would say washed-up ex-astronaut, has turned detective in this novel, in which a number of men of a similar background and physique have all died in the same area. Our narrator (who I don't think is ever fully named) is involved in the investigation to try and solve the mystery.

There is a sort of 'feel' to East European/Russian novels (SF or not) that I've read of this period and The Chain of Chance fits into it. The book feels very impersonal, especially in the early secti
Murder investigation takes an unusual turn.
Just wow.
Hákon Gunnarsson
I can't say I really liked The Chain of Chance. For some reason I found it a heavy and slow read. It may be because I just didn't like the style it is written in, or maybe it is just heavy going. No matter why I had so much trouble with this novel, I got through it in the end and I'm glad I did.

It is a memorable novel. You see, I like mysteries, and this is one of the most unusual one I remember. Lem takes a genre that is a bit set in its way and turns it into something entirely different, but
Txe Polon
En resumidas cuentas, una novela de desarrollo irregular. Tras un inicio in medias res bastante estimulante, ocurre un raro episodio que en realidad poco tendrá que ver con el resto de la novela, que muestra una estructura caótica y desordenada. La investigación se desmenuza por partes aunque de forma algo torpe, puesto que la técnica del "te cuento del tirón todo lo que sé" no resulta ser la mejor: habría resultado más interesante vivir el desarrollo de la investigación. Pero luego llega ese ab ...more
Felix Zilich
Несколько американских туристов погибает во время путешествия по Италии. Cценарий каждой смерти полностью совпадает со всеми остальными: депрессия, полное безумие, отчаянное самоубийств. Американские спецслужбы уверены, все погибшие стали жертвами эксперименте над новым химическим оружием. Для расследования этого преступления они решают послать в Европу своего человека, который повторил бы путь всех погибших и попытался выследить преступников. Им становится бывший американский астронавт. Человек ...more
It had been a long time since I'd read one of Lem's novels, and as I got deeper into The Chain of Chance, I was afraid that I had not chosen a good one. The middle of the book is a vast core-dump of facts relating to the strange deaths of various people visiting Naples who had all died in a way peculiar to how they lived. The hero, who goes by the name of one of the victims, Adams, is a washed-out American astronaut who tries to call forth the same circumstances that led to the deaths and in so ...more
Luis Martínez
How I rated it, I did liked it. You don't know actually what will happen till the end, and then in the end, you cannot believe what just happened. Truly, I am not one fan of this kind of ends, where you leave without actually knowing a real end. I know to know the answers. (view spoiler) It made me feel confused at the end, but you can enjoy sometimes w ...more
Koko kertomus on kirjoitettu yhteen pötköön - ei eroteltu lukuja, eikä juurikaan kappaleita. Se teki lukemisen hieman raskaaksi. Toisaalta kirja oli sopivan lyhyt.
Tarina on minä kertojan muodossa kerrottu ja käsittelee outojen kuolemien ratkaisua ja analysointia. Kerronta on suoraviivaista ja tasapaksua. Scifi elementit on vähäisiä ja tyyli on enemmänkin rikoksen selvittely tarina tai dekkari. Kirja ei ollut minun makuuni.
Just more Lem brilliance. He's a master at humanizing hard science and philosophy and cosmology into memorable and enjoyable literary art. He makes profound fun. In this case, probability, chance and game theory are behind an investigation into how perspective and scope allow us to create supposed meaning in any given situation. If we can't find meaning, it just means we haven't found the right distance, perspective, lens.
The Chain of Chance is an unusual novel by Lem. Closer to the detective genre than the science fiction Lem is known for, the protagonist is humbled by the pure mathematics of the mystery. If you appreciate Lem's writing style, you won't be disappointed. The "detective" is a former astronaut and he brings the same background that you often find in Lem's characters.
Jul 17, 2008 Paul rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: novel
A mystery where the main character seeks to find what links a series of deaths together in order to determine if murder has been committed, and if so, who's responsible. The character's journey is increasingly maze-like as the story progresses. If you like Lem, I'd encourage you to read, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub in lieu of this one.
Mar 30, 2013 Vadim added it
I used to read a lot of Lem's fiction when I was teenager. I was long time ago and it was translated to Russian. Seeing familiar name I bought this book and was anticipating a good deal on fun reading it. It was not. I managed about 1/2 of it before giving up. The writing style is tediously monotone and boring. Perhaps it is a translator's fault.
It isn't often that you read a detective novel that is based wholly on ideas related to chance and probability, but if you enjoy books such as Innumeracy or the literature on judgment and decision-making, this may be the perfect read. Crisp and illuminating tale of the random walk and the commonality of improbable events.
K.H. Vaughan
It isn't often that you read a detective novel that is based wholly on ideas related to chance and probability, but if you enjoy books such as Innumeracy or the literature on judgment and decision-making, this may be the perfect read. Crisp and illuminating tale of the random walk and the commonality of improbable events.
This was another expertly-written sci-fi story by my favorite sci-fi author. The language and vocabulary is high-caliber and the story itself is quite interesting. It's an unusual detective thriller, but not a super-exciting thriller. Stanislav Lem shows once again his incredible imagination and understanding for technology.
Oskar Swierad
It's a mock crime story, where the crime is connected to areas typically reserved for science-fiction - medicine, mathematics, science in general. This idea is interesting, as well as the ending. The story, though, was boring until maybe the last 1/3 of the book.
the only stanislaw lem i have read, although I think its not like his others. i loved this though. so i am interested to see if I like his other, more, sci-fi stuff. we'll see. i am going to try "tales of pirx the pilot" next.
I really wasn't sure what was going on the first 50 pages, but once the story started to unfold, it became a page-turner! It's pretty awesome how contemporary the story seems even though it was written at least 40 years ago.
Peter Lindsay
With sabremetrics becoming more and more of a fascination, I really enjoyed reading a novel dedicated to probability. Lem weaves a decent thriller around some advanced mathmatical concepts and gets away with it.
Both a dig at the classic "lone hero" school of science fiction and a terrifying reflection on the power of probability in our lives. A fascinating story that haunts you afterwards.
A bit of a departure for Lem. It still maintains the philosophy he's known for, but the narrative is much more conventional. At times, it really reminded me of JG Ballard...
Not my favorite Lem book, but still very well written and an interesting take on the murder mystery genre. The ending is a bit unlikely, but that's exactly the point.
Lem'den acayip enteresan bir bilimsel Sherlock romanı. Aşırı sürükleyici ve tutarlı, bir yanıyla da şans faktörünü matematiksel olarak sorgulamalı.

Stanislaw Lem's science fiction is of a quality so far beyond most SF writers it's scary. This particular novel has an awesome psychedelic climax. Read it.
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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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