Solaris (1961) by Stanislaw Lem

Solaris2Somehow, somewhere in my readings, I mistakenly picked up on the idea that Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker (1937) and 1961’s Solaris by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem (whose name is the worst kind of tongue twister*) are novels of similar substance. I’m not sure what misled me to that assumption, but while they both share the “sapient celestial object” concept that is central to both novels, they are entirely different, with Solaris being a traditional sci-fi story in the generic tradition, gleaning elements from sci-fi pulps and Lovecraftian horror, while Star Maker‘s greater scope functions strictly as an existential examination of humanity. While Solaris also does the whole “existential examination” thing, it’s not monopolized by that conceit– it easily functions as a just-a-story. What similarities do exist are likely due to Stapledon’s influence on Lem, as is the case for a large segment of science fiction writers who grew up under the legacy of sci-fi’s staple don.

In Solaris, we meet Kris Kelvin, who arrives on the Solaris Station after years of space travel, only to discover the station in disarray, with one colleague dead, another isolated in his lab, and another drunk and making vague, ominous threats. Continue reading