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Fiasco (Pirx the Pilot)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,949 Ratings  ·  131 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.

Paperback, 322 pages
Published March 15th 1988 by Mariner Books (first published 1986)
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Solaris by Stanisław LemRoadside Picnic by Arkady StrugatskyWe by Yevgeny ZamyatinThe Futurological Congress by Stanisław LemTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Best European Science Fiction Books
24th out of 192 books — 152 voters
Dune by Frank HerbertEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Best Science Fiction
471st out of 2,179 books — 3,425 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Feb 25, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 30, 2010 Jake rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Nov 28, 2013 William rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrej Karpathy
May 15, 2016 Andrej Karpathy rated it it was amazing
Do you despise "sci-fi" featuring aliens with legs/faces/eyes/fur that highlight the author's intellectual shallowness at best or intentionally insult your intelligence at worst? Does your heart rate accelerate when a spaceship in a book/movie flies between worlds with a flip of a switch magical warp drive - ignore relativity - tech without any expectation that you might be puzzled by the blatant inconsistencies with the physical laws of our universe? If intellectually lazy pretend-sci-fi is not ...more
Apr 09, 2011 Gregory rated it it was amazing
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.
Luka Antonić
Aug 31, 2011 Luka Antonić rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
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
Jul 29, 2012 Josh rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
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.
Mark Schomburg
Jul 31, 2013 Mark Schomburg rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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
Ed Holden
Aug 14, 2013 Ed Holden rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Piotr rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Erik Erickson
Jan 25, 2015 Erik Erickson rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, prose, scifi
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
بهمن بهمن
Oct 10, 2014 بهمن بهمن rated it it was ok
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
Jan 25, 2015 Bbrown rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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 ...more
J.j. Metsavana
Sep 09, 2015 J.j. Metsavana rated it it was amazing
Uh, väga hea raamat ja väga raske raamat üheaegselt. Raskeks tegid lugemise mitu asja, esiteks raske ja võõrsõnadest ning tehnilistest terminitest paks keel. Teiseks kujutas teos kohati endast rohkem erinevate fantastiliste teooriate ja filosoofiliste arutluste kogumit kui ilukirjanduslikku teost. Kohati oli tunne nagu loeks mõnd vana Nõukogude aegset populaarteadusliku teksti. Ja pean tunnistama, et alati ma ei suutnud end neist teooriatest-kirjeldustest läbi närida. Nii jäi mulle üsna segaseks ...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 ...more
Apr 13, 2011 eva rated it really liked it
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
Damian Murphy
Jun 23, 2009 Damian Murphy rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 27, 2016 Ashkan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
تنها به این گفته از نقد روزنامهٔ تایمز بر این کتاب بسنده میکنم: «اصولا هر کتابی که نام لم را بر خود دارد، باید هشدار سازمان بهداشت دولتی را نیز داشته باشد: خواندن این داستان برای سلامتی مفید است»

نقلقول از موخرهٔ پایان کتاب در صفحهٔ برگردان پیمان اسماعیلیان، چاپ اول نشر جوانهٔ رشد
Jeff Miller
Mar 22, 2013 Jeff Miller rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 23, 2013 Jay rated it really liked it
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.
Javier Cantero
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dániel Darabos
Oct 02, 2016 Dániel Darabos rated it really liked it
Such a weird book! Some classics, like The Lord of the Rings read just like anything that came after them —at least in part because they had such an effect on future works. Not Fiasco.

It starts with the redirected landing of a spaceship to one base on Titan instead of the other. Turns out it was redirected because they assumed it had a person named Killian on board and they wanted this person. Who is this Killian? About a hundred pages later we are a thousand years in the future and Titan has be
Nov 16, 2016 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
Two things: 1) Lem is capable of really wonderful stuff. 2) This book has its problems. So why four stars then, David? Well, look, there's some great riffs sprinkled throughout, and its wanderings and doldrums along the way end up almost erased by the blistering pessimism it musters in its closing 50 pages or so. You keep wondering, as the end drifts nearer, whether he's really got the courage to take it all the way. Oh yes, oh, he does.

And can you really argue that he's misread us? That's the t
Nov 25, 2016 GiM rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened
What I liked about it is the underlying critique of SF genre.
What I actually didn't is that it tries to fall into hard SF genre. Most of the "hard" parts don't affect the plot in any way and don't enhance it as well. Initial 2-3 chapters are quite hard to get through, but afterwards it's really interesting.
Additionally I liked story-within-story construction.
Rita Monticelli
Jun 12, 2013 Rita Monticelli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, urania
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
Jun 06, 2016 Angela rated it liked it
Sorry, if i can`t understand you, i HAVE TO destroy you - theres no other way!!! – mondta az egyszeri űrhajós és ronggyá lézerezte az idegen kultúrát, miután erőszakkal rájuk rúgta az ajtót, de rájött, hogy sem kitermelhető olajkészletei nincsenek, sem elrabolható aranya és a nőstényei sem csábítók eléggé (ha vannak egyáltalán).

Bár minden adott volt, hogy egy csodálatos klasszikus jöjjön létre, Lem mégis kudarcot vallott (talán megengedhetem magamnak ezt a szójátékot.)
Nehéz eldönteni, hogy az ír
Sep 29, 2016 Andrej rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What a brilliant piece of science fiction.
Some awesome philosophical thoughts regarding all things SciFi, along with elaborated in-depth technical explanation of the world setting.

Timothy Lohrey
Jun 06, 2015 Timothy Lohrey rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2014 Mihwa rated it it was amazing
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
Patrick Gibson
Aug 23, 2014 Patrick Gibson rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
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
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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
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Other Books in the Series

Pirx the Pilot (3 books)
  • Odruch warunkowy
  • Polowanie

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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.”
“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.” 2 likes
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