Fiasco
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Fiasco

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  1,188 ratings  ·  82 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
Paperback, 322 pages
Published March 15th 1988 by Mariner Books (first published 1986)
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Community Reviews

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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.
William
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Josh
Jul 29, 2012 Josh rated it 3 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
Bovineinversus
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Seth the Zest
Rarely do I read a book that leaves me dumbfounded, but in a good way. At the end of this one, I felt stumped but only because everything the characters had sought to do turned out to be wholly different than their preconceptions. It is rare for me to be so absorbed, mystified, and mentally tested as this book requires. One of the best sci-fi books I've ever read.
Nabeel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erik
Okay so obviously anything Stanislaw Lem writes about first contact and alien intelligence is going to be smart and unexpected. The parts about the planet Quinta and its bizarre activities bring us back to the best parts of Solaris. It's just that getting to the actual planet is half the book and we have to deal with some gruesome cryostasis and explanations of space flight on the way to the planet. Anyway the contact problems with the Quintans are brilliant as always with Lem. Their problems se...more
Ignacio Castaño
This was an interesting read, but not the best of Stanislaw Lem.

In this book meet many of the core themes that he's well known for: the fascination with technology, morals and philosophy, the human nature, and the ethics of science, but the main theme is the failure to communicate with an alien civilization due to cultural and social differences.

Yes, there are also space travels, big robots, aliens, and amazing space ships, all with a solid scientific foundation.

Lem gives us a glimpse of what o...more
Michael
Very good book. Compelling and thought-provoking though not as satisfying as Solaris and not as fun Futurological Congress or Pirx. Some nitpicks: The book is too dense with unnecessary explanations of scientific extrapolations (a common problem I have with far-future hard science fiction books). A bit didactic too. I could not relate to some of the characters' motivations and actions; the reactions of the crew to the Quintans(the aliens) just seemed too severe as if only written so that Lem cou...more
Derick Douglas
This was fantastic. It took me a long time to get the message. I had about 50 pages left when it came clear to me. The story begins with a story about people getting lost in a rescue attempt. It continues with tales of resurrection in the future and exploration of alien worlds. It has a lot of big concepts flying around. It became clear to me that the title of this is very central to the entire novel. It was a story about human nature and the decision making process. Lem could be described as a...more
Bryan
Lem is a master of detail of the sort that makes him one of the best writers in hard scifi. Sometimes his philosophical ramblings in this book get tedious, but they also make the story seem more real. The ending was a little surprising.
Steve Hughes
Just re-read this after a 25 year interval.

Lem's themes of absurdity, human fallibility and limitation, and his critique of game theory are brilliantly realised in this superb novel.

The book describes an alien encounter which is of course the Fiasco of the title. The humans, who have reached a technological level almost allowing them to transcend beyond the galactic contact stage, attempt to contact an alien civilisation who's otherness makes the project immensely difficult.

Succumbing to very hu...more
Aaron Arnold
Lem has been one of my favorite science fiction authors for a long time. I almost think of him as anti-science fiction, though, because many of the best of his books are dedicated to undermining the naive dreams of the techno-utopians (i.e. Star Trek writers) and remorselessly showing what happens when humanity's flaws get translated to the stars. As the title shows, this story of first contact doesn't go well, but what makes it so compelling is his trademark way of showing the consequences of o...more
Ed Finn
This is a strange, fascinating, and ultimately flawed book. I love the intense seriousness that Lem brings to his science fiction--even if the future's space missions have beer and roast beef and no women (you can almost smell the cabbage on this ship). The science and speculative elements are fascinating, but the whole plot here turns on typically hyper-rational Lem characters making a series of implausibly dumb choices. I guess it's called Fiasco for a reason, but the flat characters don't do...more
Syed Asif
The ideas in the book are new and excellent
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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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