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Imaginary Magnitude

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  353 ratings  ·  19 reviews
These wickedly authentic introductions to twenty-first-century books preface tomes on teaching English to bacteria, using animated X-rays to create "pornograms," and analyzing computer-generated literature through the science of "bitistics." "Lem, a science fiction Bach, plays in this book a googleplex of variations on his basic themes" (New York Times Book Review). Transl ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published October 28th 1985 by Mariner Books (first published 1973)
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The Zombie Survival Guide by Max BrooksImaginary Magnitude by Stanisław LemGnomes by Wil HuygenNazi Literature in the Americas by Roberto BolañoPale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
Fictional Nonfiction
2nd out of 29 books — 27 voters
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler by Italo CalvinoHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiCloud Atlas by David MitchellPale Fire by Vladimir NabokovSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Oulipo,etc.
36th out of 200 books — 166 voters


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Community Reviews

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Aaron Arnold
This was Stanislaw Lem's first collection of reviews of non-existent books, also known as "pseudepigraphy" because every stylistic tic clearly deserves its own distinct Greco-Latinate title. As with most disciples of Borges this student doesn't trump the master, but this was flawed even compared to A Perfect Vacuum, which I highly enjoyed.

The main problem was that though these pieces are "funny", in that they are usually written to parody various styles of writing, they're not typically actually
...more
Olethros
-Un trabajo correcto, poco común y realizado por un gigante.-

Género. Ensayo (pero no del tipo habitual, queridos lectores, avisados quedan).

Lo que nos cuenta. También conocida como “Magnitud imaginaria” en otras ediciones, recopilación de supuestos prólogos a varias obras igualmente supuestas que tratan temas tan interesantes como la pornografía a través de los rayos-x, la comunicación con bacterias gracias a su disposición en las placas Petri, la literatura de diferentes géneros pero escrita p
...more
Brent Stansfield
The first half is stunningly funny but the second is a sober, academic lecture. In the first half, wordplay and ideaplay abound and the form of the book (a collection of introductions from books to be written in the future) is followed strictly. In the second half, he immediately abandons all of this. I'm happy to hear Lem describe how he thinks a different intelligence might relate to us since both Solaris and His Master's Voice end with that disappointingly unanswered question. But in the seco ...more
Víctor Sampayo
De entrada, Stanisław Lem muestra el hilo que guiará al lector a través de su extrañísimo libro Magnitud imaginaria (Wielkość urojona, 1973): hace un prólogo que habla del arte de hacer prólogos... ver reseña completa
Chris
A book of two halves. The first a collection of fake introductions to fake books and the second an extended sampling of a fake book. The first half was much easier to appreciate than to enjoy. Each introduction has a solid idea at the kernel and some clever wordplay, but the author's commitment to masquerade as science makes for dry, jargon-dense text.

The second, more cohesive half was much more enjoyable for me. It builds an interesting narrative and holds a genuinely interesting (still rather
...more
David
This book of introductions, forewards, and excerpts from 21st Century books reveals the eclectic nature of Lem's genius. He begins with the introduction (to be written by Stanislaw Ertel) to Necrobes by Cezary Strzybisz. This isn't so much an introduction as a critique of the 139 reproductions of X-ray photographs of living human beings, their soft parts hovering around the skeletal structure like a ghostly presence. He can't help associating these images to the work of artists such as Holbein, ...more
Matthewaqq
PROGNOLINGUISTICS, a discipline dealing with the prognostic construction of languages of the future. Future languages may be constructed on the basis of the in-fosemic gradients revealed in them, and also thanks to the generative grammars and word makers of the Zwiebulin-Tschossnietz school (v. GENAGRAMMAR and WORD-MAKERS). Humans are incapable of predicting languages of the future independently; this is undertaken within the framework of the PROLINGEV (prognostication of linguistic evolution) p ...more
Jericho
Just the concept itself is intriguing - introductions to books which have not been written yet. A fictional exegesis on the nature of introductions. Must read this again! My copy is awash with particolored highlighter. Read this as an undergraduate, all too eager to find meaning in it. If i remember correctly the crux of the book is about a supercomputer gone sentient named Golem that stops talking to humans eventually.
Daniel
Lem himself wasn't keen on being grouped with most other Sci-fi writers and -as in one of the stories here collected- showed contempt towards the genre. I however find it difficult not to think of him and his works as science Fiction, and some of the very best.

He shows us here, if in a condensed and abstract way, one of the things science fiction should definitely be: a window to mankind and how it relates to itself. In this book, while being playful, dramatic, darkly humorous (and dense), he br
...more
Ian
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mikebee
A collection of introductions!
Peterh
Imaginary Magnitude is an anthology of introductions to fictional books. It's a delightful conceit that largely serves as a vehicle for Stanislaw Lem to ruminate on the nature of art and life. These ruminations oscillate between being lively and being very dry, but they are absolutely shot through with the level of imagination promised by the book's framing concept. Readers looking for narrative should consider skipping this book for risk of finding the long-winded essays a disappointment. All o ...more
Sam
This is a book of introductions to imaginary books (to be published in the future). A lot of word-play, a lot of ideas, a lot of speculation about intelligence and consciousness, plus some really nice insights about evolution.

I hate to rate a book by Lem as low as three stars, but unfortunately, I found that this book dragged at least as often as it enlivened.

John
This one was challenging, most of the time enjoyably, but also a bit overwhelmingly when the hard science went really deep. But as usual, Lem's miraculous ability to render truly heady stuff into deeply engaging, thought-provoking entertainment leaves me feeling like I've been bootstrapped into a higher state of awareness. But if you're new to Lem, start elsewhere.
Irmak Ertuna-howison
a humorous work of lem's major themes: anthropomorphism, consciousness, and possibility of communication. it's captivating as usual.
Gilmore
Imaginary reviews of nonexistent technical books. One of the best 'from the AI's perspective' pieces ever written in the very last piece.
Joe
I need to read this again, because the essays about evolution and the nature of artificial intelligence have stuck with me.
Josiah
awesome idea
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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...
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“Only a hundred years ago the idea that an order might arise without a personal Author appeared so nonsensical to you that it inspired seemingly absurd jokes, like the one about the pack of monkeys hammering away at typewriters until the Encyclopedia Britannica emerged. I recommend that you devote some of your free time to compiling an anthology of just such jokes, which amused your forebears as pure nonsense but now turn out to be parables of Nature.” 4 likes
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