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The Chain of Chance

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  782 Ratings  ·  60 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 lead
Paperback, 179 pages
Published March 28th 2000 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1976)
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Ana  Vlădescu
"Solaris" was much stronger, but this story is a treat anyhow. More than anything, it emphasizes the power of thought and what deductive thinking can do, if in the "hands" of an intelligent man. The book is SF more through its proposition, than its execution, but it's nonetheless written beautifully and presents a strong lead character and an exciting plot line.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: stanislaw-lem
Dedektiv üslubda yazardan oxuduğum ikinci kitab olan "Kör Talih" hadisələri qavramaqda bir müddət çətinlik çəkdiyim bir əsər oldu. Kitabın yarısından sonra tapmacanın hissələri yavaş- yavaş yerinə oturmağa başladı. "Soruşturma" əsərinə bənzər olaraq burda da Lem statistika elmindən, özünün tibbi bilikləri ilə zəngin təsvirlərə kimi geniş çərçivədə bir çox anlayış ilə romanı zənginləşdirib.

Roman əvvəllər kosmonavt olmuş birisinin İtaliyaya normal görünməyən ölümlər silsiləsini araşdırma məqsədil
Jun 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Plamena Nikolaeva
Jul 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
По стара традиция и това лято претършувах библиотеката на баба. Преглеждала съм я безброй пъти, но все си намирам нещо ново (за мен) и интересно. Така попаднах на "Сенна хрема". По принцип не обичам фантастика и досега не бях чела нищо от полски автор, така че се гмурнах без абсолютно никакви очаквания. Признавам, че ми тръгна малко мудно. Първите страници са някак хаотични, но не мистериозно и интригуващо, а скучно хаотични. Повествованието се води от първо лице единствено число. Читателят нами ...more
Christian West
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book
What an odd book. An American ex-astronaut investigates a series of seemingly unrelated deaths in Italy by trying to replicate the events that are similar between them all and then spends some time in France with a computing expert.
The text was very dense, and the first fifth of the book was confusing for quite a while, but overall I enjoyed it quite a lot. It's like a detective story, but instead of investigating an actual murder, the story investigates whether the deaths were accidental or not
Aug 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just wow.
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: verano-2017
El primer libro de Lem que leo, y la verdad no me dejó decepcionado. Esta novela es de ese tipo de obras a las que uno debe acercarse sin expectativas de ningún tipo, porque Lem dedica la totalidad de sus casi doscientas páginas para destrozar toda expectativa. Aunque es muy breve (dos días de lectura es más que suficiente) a veces resulta densa, pero me parece que esa es la idea: el lector siente la misma confusión de los encargados de investigar las extrañas muertes de una docena de extranjero ...more
Adam Sznajder
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mind-blowing detective story with probability as the main character. Must read!
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
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it

Dziedzictwo Lema, to coś wspaniałego w polskiej kulturze, czego sami nie jesteśmy w stanie niestety właściwie zagospodarować. Szkoda, że Lema w szkole poznajemy jedynie jako autora "jakichśtam" bajek s-f, ni to dla dzieci, ni to dla dorosłych - przynajmniej takie wrażenie sprawia dla wielu młodych polaków.

W zasadzie to jeden z niewielu autorów, który w swoim pokoleniu potrafił wybić się na tle innych znakomitym połączeniem kreowania świata przyszłości i analizy społecznej, socjologicznych
Jul 12, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, crime
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
Felix Zilich
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cyberpunk
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
Aug 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
A fun, clever and satisfying "mystery science fiction" read about an American astronaut-turned-detective looking into the mysterious deaths of several middle-aged men who were vacationing in Naples, near Mt Vesuvius. It is a little confusing and slow during the first few pages, but really picks up -- the world is a bit futuristic, yet Old World (since it's set in various European cities). The writing is part noir, part Ian Fleming, part Agatha Christie and part Camus. The science leans more towa ...more
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
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
I don't want to blame the writing for me being unable to finish "Chain of Chance". I want to blame the historical romance mindset that carried over from the book before. I want to blame that I was stressed and unable to focus, or that I was too tired. I want to make excuses, but I just can't. The basic premise of the book sounds interesting and accomplished its task as plot hook to draw me in. However, once within the folds of the story, I couldn't stay interested for very long. My mental images ...more
Aug 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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
Luis Martínez
Oct 24, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Apr 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
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.
James F
Feb 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf, fantasy, world
Another good novel by Stanislaw Lem; as with his earlier novel The Investigation this is more a mystery than science fiction, and basically set in the present although there has been an expedition to Mars (which plays no real role in the plot). A former astronaut-turned-detective investigates the mysterious deaths of a number of tourists at a spa in Naples -- murder or coincidence? Unlike many of his other novels, this one actually reveals the answer.
Jun 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
The opening 80 pages of introspective narration were almost completely opaque and felt needlessly abstruse... However, once you absorb these details, and wade your way through the dense dialogue to piece together the facts of the case, the story becomes completely clear. I always appreciate Lem's incorporation of scientific and mathematical concepts in his writing, in this case the laws of statistics (particularly the Law of Truly Large Numbers).
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nabu Borsippa
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is based on a very intriguing concept and I enjoyed all the theories presented, but the initial parts of the book seem quite off place. Everything preceding the data storm was unnecessarily long and could be reduced to a quarter. In a genious book everything adds up to the story – sadly this is just a great one.
Mar 24, 2013 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.
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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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