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His Master's Voice

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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,850 ratings  ·  206 reviews
Twenty-five hundred scientists have been herded into an isolated site in the Nevada desert. A neutrino message of extraterrestrial origin has been received and the scientists, under the surveillance of the Pentagon, labor on His Master's Voice, the secret program set up to decipher the transmission. Among them is Peter Hogarth, an eminent mathematician. When the project re ...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published November 25th 1999 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1968)
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4.11  · 
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 ·  2,850 ratings  ·  206 reviews


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BlackOxford
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: slavic, sci-fi
Signal as Noise

As is typical with much of his other work, Lem explores a perennial philosophical issue in His Master’s Voice: How can we know that what we think we know has any claim to reality? Lem’s use of a very Borgesian pseudo-factual account of a mathematician’s encounter with a cosmic intelligence is brilliantly apt. Plato knew the problem well; Kant re-stated it ad nauseam; and Trump confirms its significance on a daily basis. Don Delillo‘s Ratner’s Star has a similar theme (See: https:/
...more
Andrej Karpathy
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
His Master's Voice is probably best described as a grown up version of Carl Sagan's Contact. This is a very unique sci-fi, in a good way. It is first and foremost an ambitious and humbling philosophical treatise on humanity and our place in the universe. This is then grounded in a short story about a team of scientists in a project similar to the Manhattan Project who are trying to decipher a discovered message encoded in a neutrino signal. The book raises several intriguing possibilities about ...more
Michael Battaglia
Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
While Stanislaw Lem was not known as a writing man of action, neither was he Samuel Beckett for the most part either. But my goodness there is such a thing as taking it to extremes. Fortunately, Lem was a thinker on such a ridiculously intense level that if you're the right kind of SF reader then this is come across like manna from heaven. If you're the kind of person who seeks out authors based on George Clooney's starring film choices, you're going to be in for a bit of a surprise, because thi ...more
Mahyar
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
His Master's Voice is the story of a brilliant mathematician, working on a Manhatten Project-like in an attempt to decipher a signal from space.

The attempt has only succeeded in deciphering a tiny fragment of the message (and that is not well understood). Thus the work fits in with Lem's many writings on the subject of the "alien" and how it may be impossible to understand something which is truly different from us.
These other works include "Fiasco", "Eden" and (most famously) "Solaris". "His
...more
Nikola Pavlovic
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Jako komplikovana i kompleksna knjiga. Komplikovana zbog dve stvari. Prva je nacin pisanja a druga jer je stalno na granici da postane kakva naucna disertacija. I pored toga, uz povremenu upotrebu googla, vise ju je nego zanimljivo citati. Ovo delo vas tera na razmisljanje i poseduje neke od najvisprenijih metafora na koje sam nailazio. Jako zrelo delo. A poruka je vise nego jasna, barem ona po meni najvaznija, svako ce u necemu nepoznatom videti ono sto najvise zeli. Ljudska vrsta nravno oruzje ...more
Marc Nash
Aug 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent treatment of the relentless march of scientific progress and discovery and its shortcomings. However, the book reads like a debate rather than an involving narrative. There is no plot.

A seemingly alien message is intercepted by Earth but it is a language and technology not previously encountered. The best minds of the democratic West are assembled to try and crack its mystery, including the mathematician narrator, whose main role turns out to be that of skeptic, providing the count
...more
Dan Keating
Mar 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Let me start by saying that I've owned this book for around five or six years and have only just completed it. I've made several attempts over the years, the most recent of which involving swearing to myself that I would not read anything else until I completed it. Well, I've completed it, and the sensation is something akin to climbing a grueling mountain only to turn around afterward and discover that it was, in fact, an anthill.

Don't get me wrong. Lem's brilliant ability to misdirect the read
...more
Lukasz Pruski
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This extraordinary novel from the favorite writer of my youth, Stanisław Lem, defies categorizations. While on the surface it is a suspense novel or a "mystery" (more precisely, a scientific and philosophical mystery/suspense), it is actually more of a treatise on the human species' place in the Universe. Mr. Lem, who began in 1940s as a science-fiction writer and became the world's most widely read science-fiction author, left his mark on the 20th century as one of the deepest thinkers writing ...more
Carlex
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lo siento, voy tan de c*lo que no puedo hacer comentario. Quedaos con que está muy bien.
Gendou
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Stanislaw Lem is a good author.
But his science fiction reads more like philosophical fiction.
There is some good particle physics stuff in this story, which I greatly appreciated.
The writing style is elegant, sometimes gaudy, but the narrator's pompous opining gets old.
I found myself hoping for less talk, more action a lot while reading this book.

I feel like the author didn't have the balls to chose mathematical and cryptographic details for The Message, so he left them out.
I would have loved to
...more
Thegurkenkaiser
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Das ist ein sehr faszinierendes Buch. Vieles was über die Humanwissenschaften und an gesellschaftlichen Auffassungen da verbreitet wird, findei ch zwar schli9chtweg falsch, aber das philosophieren über die bedeutung der alien-botschaft und das aufstellen und verwerfen von hypothesen, das ist richtig mitreissend. auch wenns stellenweise schwer zu lesen ist und zeitweise in naturwissenschaftlich-technischm gebrabbel versinkt. eigentlich gefällt mir vieles an dem buch nicht. aber man muss es lesen. ...more
Truncarlos
Nov 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
Grande Lem.
Tom Tresansky
Sort of like the anti-Contact (or, as it precedes Sagan's novel, maybe Contact is the juvenile, safe-for-kids rose-colored version of HMV).

Works much better as philosophy than as a novel. The psuedo-memoir structure adds nothing, and deletes any sense of urgency about the message; despite the final third attempting (unsuccessfully) to instill something akin to a generic scientists vs. military conflict. The opening took me 2 tries to get through, and seems fairly unnecessary having finished the
...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a science fiction novel – but it is only sort-of science fiction, and, for that matter, only sort-of a novel.
It's in the form of a memoir – or musing – by a noted mathematician who worked in the upper levels of a secret government project code-named His Master's Voice – the purpose of which was to decode and comprehend a message, seemingly sent by intelligent beings from outer space, on neutrino waves.
We are told from the outset that the project was not successful – no communication was
...more
Evan
Apr 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Here we have more of Lem's tragic scientists, deep characters whose interactions, as always with Lem, sometimes read like a novel of manners from another dimension.

His Masters Voice can feel like a series of disconnected essays on grand themes, but the whole thing adds up to a wrenching statement about the impossibility of knowledge and the human place in a vast universe. The patchwork of ideas in this book fuse with a weird, white hot intensity that will move you, despite yourself.

It's sad tha
...more
Nick
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, audible
An epic book, in scope, if not in length. Just short of a philosophical treatise on the origins and future of mankind, Lem weaves together a true arsenal of science fiction tropes and scientific knowledge of the day to paint a eerily realistic scenario that follows a discovery of an extraterrestrial signal. The book starts out a bit slow - with the narrator explaining to the reader why he is the one who is narrating the said book - but it picks up from there and the plot has a steady ramp-up to ...more
Sean
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
The story of a strange message from deep space and the scientists who attempt and fail to decipher it. Plenty of Lem's interesting theorizing, but totally lacking in the humor his other books have. Very slow and dreary. It's a short book, and still the story doesn't feel like it starts until it's half over. If I had a sharp stick, I would poke this book in the eye with it.
Leslie
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book is a mental meat grinder
FP
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un día, a través de una serie de coincidencias raras, se descubre que se logró capturar un mensaje del espacio exterior. De inmediato, todo un grupo variopinto de científicos se pone en campaña para interpretarlo. Tal como revela la introducción, no tienen mucho éxito.
Una vez más, Lem toma el concepto del primer contacto y nos hace deprimirnos con la incapacidad de obtener resultados. En sí, tomó la misma idea de Solaris y la analizó de otro punto: mientras que en Solaris los científicos van al
...more
Luke Burrage
Full review on my podcast, SFBRP episode #395.



Luke talks to Juliane abot a book that is almost not even a novel, His Master’s Voice by Stanislaw Lem.

http://www.sfbrp.com/archives/1562
Nigel Mitchell
May 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of Mankind's first contact with extraterrestrial life, but it's nothing like what you've seen before. I always felt that if the people who created the SETI Project to search for alien signals had read this book, they would have given up. That's because Lem's novel perfectly illustrates how impossible it would be for us to communicate with alien life. Think of it as the evil twin of "Contact," written twenty years later.

In "His Master's Voice," a group of scientists identify a r
...more
Chris
Jan 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book is the story of an unsuccessful attempt to translate an alien signal encoded in neutrino radiation. (The possibility of detecting or sending such a signal makes the book science fiction, given the elusiveness of neutrinos in the real world.) This is not a spoiler. The narrator, a member of the scientific team assigned decipher the transmission, tells us it was unsuccessful from the very beginning. The novel is more about why it was unsuccessful and the consequences of it being unsucces ...more
Krzysztof
Oct 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Głos Pana

W pierwszej kolejności trzeba sobie odpowiedzieć na pytanie dlaczego Głos Pana jest i powinien być fascynującą pozycją dla fanów s-f. Moim zdaniem główną zaletą tej powieści jest jej ocieranie się o to, co ja osobiście w s-f cenię najbardziej. Mianowicie chodzi o pytania, podsuwanie odpowiedzi, niejednoznaczność i przemyślenia dotyczące postępu technologicznego, czy też eksploracji kosmosu.

Z początku można być znudzonym lekko zbyt surowym hard s-f podanym w formie autobiografii uczestni
...more
Teniente Mandella
Antes de nada decir que Solaris y Fiasco son algunas de mis novelas favoritas, el como Lem nos traslada el fracaso humano ante la incomprensión de comunicarnos con otras razas. La "multi-hipótesis" como motor de sus historias.

La trama central de La voz del amo es la misma, pero aquí el ensayo filosófico vence por extensión abrumadora a la parte hard que me suele flipar del autor polaco. Los gustos son los que son, y las primeras 100 páginas se me han hecho tediosas. En ellas se nos describe la i
...more
Elisenda
Serà complicat parlar sobre aquest llibre, ja que és un dels més densos que he llegit. Està explicat com a les memòries del protagonista, Peter Hogarth, científic que participa en el projecte MAVO (Master’s Voice) per desxifrar el missatge que hi ha en un flux continu de neutrins. Però no m’avanço a la història. Comencem per com vaig saber d’aquest llibre.

Personalment, no se m’ha fet gens pesat, però jo ja coneixia aquest autor i la forma que té d’escriure. Si no el coneixes, millor comença per
...more
Steve Joyce
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lem asks absurd questions that somehow have relevance in reality and yet simultaneously asks relevant questions answered with absurd responses. All this he accomplishes without bludgeoning "why s", "how s", or "because s" but rather in a style that immerses the reader in his topsy-turvy world...one which somehow still makes sense.

It's a science fiction novel that simultaneously:

_has virtually nothing but scientists as characters. (what a concept?!?)
&
_treats the science fiction genre in a co
...more
Jon Gauthier
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Scientists
Lem has inspired comments on science in the real world:
the creeping insular bias of a particular scientific field,
the institutional bias of modern science,
the troubled relationship between science and its government (often military) funding sources,
and the impossibility of a really "objective" science.

To reread for sure. I'll go read some more of Lem's books for the time being..
Letremon
Aug 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
On one hand, this book can be described by a simple phrase: A masterpiece by one of the greatest masters of science fiction. But on the other hand, my strong opinion is that it can't and needn't to be described, as it is such a highly intellectual piece of literature, full of phylosophy and wisdom, that you need to let it through yourself to understand, and after that, I'm pretty sure you will feel shocked and astonished but at the same time have peace in your mind, like I did.
Cira
Jul 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've been trying to read this for about 8 years... it's one of those "you can borrow it" books that I never gave back. It was quite good, and I found it surprisingly free of the one-dimensional Cold War cliches that seem to be so common in retrospect. Sometimes it's difficult to tell what's an allegory or metaphor, and sometimes the internal musings get a bit clunky ... BUT I still liked this a whole lot.
Scott
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Really thought provoking. On the surface, it's a sci fi story about a mysterious signal in space that seems to be from an intelligent alien species and has some interesting properties. But the real bulk of the story seems to be the internal dialogue of the lead scientist who's on a secret government project trying to crack the code and his thoughts about scientific research & man's search for meaning & life itself. A little dry in parts, but this is deep stuff.
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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
“And yet we knew, for a certainty, that when first emissaries of Earth went walking among the planets, Earth's other sons would be dreaming not about such expeditions but about a piece of bread.” 17 likes
“Psychoanalysis provides truth in an infantile, that is, a schoolboy fashion: we learn from it, roughly and hurriedly, things that scandalize us and thereby command our attention. It sometimes happens, and such is the case here, that a simplification touching upon the truth, but cheaply, is of no more value than a lie. Once again we are shown the demon and the angel, the beast and the god locked in Manichean embrace, and once again man has been pronounced, by himself, not culpable.” 6 likes
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