Melanti's Reviews > Solaris: The Definitive Edition

Solaris by Stanisław Lem
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's review
Dec 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, sci-fi, classics, 2012, 1001-books, e-book, kindle-lendable, mental-health
Read from January 28 to 30, 2012

A problem I see all too often in speculative fiction is a tendency to dismiss possibilities too quickly. They see a world that is too hot, too cold, too variable, no oxygen, no carbon, or anything that is radically non-earthlike and assume that nothing can live on it. They’re looking for roving, mobile, carbon based life forms, breathing oxygen. They’re looking for beings that can move, signal, make noise, build things. In short, they’re looking for things like humans.

Part of the impetuous behind Solaris is the question of what happens if we encounter something radically different than us? How can we communicate with a being that cannot move, cannot speak, most likely cannot hear or see, and possibly has no sensation of touch?

We cannot talk to it – it cannot talk back, even if it was aware of our speech. It may not even have a concept of words.
We cannot gesture to it in sign language – it cannot sign back.

It’s the only being on its planet and in fact covers the entire surface. Is it even aware of the possibility that something outside itself exists? When we do experiments on it, is it even aware that we are there? Does it know why a portion of itself moved suddenly or why it was bombarded with xrays?

If it has no awareness of physicality but can somehow perceive our minds, how would it distinguish between the “now” and memories? Between conscious and unconscious thoughts? Between desires or dreams and reality?

Would we ever be able to communicate with something completely different than us? Or are we doomed to mutually experiment on each other forever?

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