Saturday, 4 August 2012

Rameau Reviews: Solaris - Stanislaw Lem

Solaris
When Kris Kelvin arrives at the planet Solaris to study the ocean that covers its surface, he finds a painful, hitherto unconscious memory embodied in the living physical likeness of a long-dead lover. Others examining the planet, Kelvin learns, are plagued with their own repressed and newly corporeal memories. The Solaris ocean may be a massive brain that creates these incarnate memories, though its purpose in doing so is unknown, forcing the scientists to shift the focus of their quest and wonder if they can truly understand the universe without first understanding what lies within their hearts.


For a book touted so highly, I found it disappointing. 

It wasn’t just the first person limited past tense storytelling. It was so much more than that.

When I started uni, almost a decade ago, this book was recommended to me. It’s why I never watched, or tried to avoid at least, the George Clooney film version and the others. I didn’t want the film and others opinions to taint mine.

Except it did anyway. 

I saw just enough of the film to decipher one key lesson about a third into the novel: Loneliness. Regret. Guilt. Anger. Love. Longing. This book is about emotion rather than reason. 

Except maybe not quite. The blurb behind the Finnish translation extols the themes Lem wrote about, things that conquer human science: God and faith. And that’s my main problem with Solaris.

There’s a reason why I chose to study physics, mathematics, and chemistry.

I like science. I’m curious. I ask questions. I’d like someone to answer those questions and if they can’t, I’d like to try finding the answers myself. It’s what drives every scientist: The need to know, the need to learn. 

A few hundred years ago people relied on open fire and candles to see in the dark, to read (if they were lucky and privileged enough) in the dark and to write in the dark. Then a man called Maxwell came up with a set of equations that changed the world. Here we are a hundred and fifty years later playing with computers, paying with credit or debit cards, and turning a switch to see in the dark, to read and to write in a light as strong as day. 

Throughout the book I wanted to know more about its science. I wanted to pick up those books Kelvin was reading or thinking about and I wanted to see the theories for myself. I wanted to learn them. I was mildly entertained and interested in the psychological disintegration of his character, but mostly I just wanted to see the hard data about Solaris and its sea. Maybe this is why I don’t read more science fiction: I get caught up on the science and forget the fiction.

But that’s not what this book is about either. 

This book is about reaffirming people’s faith in a science dominated world. And for me, that’s a reason to be scared. As much as believing in something higher is to be admired and respected, I don’t want to turn back the clock to a time when a church could dictate how people should live and what was their precise place in life. I love the comforts science has provided me too much to give them up. I love the rights and freedoms I as a woman enjoy today because of science and Enlightenment. 

Believing in science doesn’t mean you can’t have faith. Science answers only the question how, but you with your faith decide the answer to the question why.


2 stars

Translation: Finnish (from French)
Suom: Matti Kannosto
Series: N/A
Pages: 250
Publisher:        Kirjayhtymä
ISBN: 951-26-0317-9
Published:        1981
Source: Library


19 comments:

  1. I'm sorry it was a disappointment for you.

    I did see the Clooney movie and wasn't impressed with it. I don't really have any interest in reading the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So am I. This book is a science fiction classic, and rightly so, it just isn't a book for me.

      Now, though, I think the film might be an improvement...no, I'm not that cruel.

      Delete
  2. Thats a shame it dissapointed. I agree, believing in science doesnt mean you cant have faith.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apparently it is to be proven over and over that literary classics and I don't get along.

      Delete
  3. Thanks Rameau :)
    I do think that I tried to watch the movie once but *yawn*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With my luck, had I watched it then instead of deciding to wait to read the book first, I would have enjoyed it.

      Delete
  4. The age old fight between science and religion. *sigh* You make a good point.

    To Blodeuedd: WHAT??? No FF?? *sniff*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know!!! I have been bad lately :/

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    2. Why fight when you don't have to? I guess asking for understanding all around is too much?

      Delete
  5. awww, sorry this one wasn't that great. hopefully your next read will be better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Slightly improved, then something bad again, and another did-not-finish book, but I'll cross my fingers for the next one I pick up.

      Thanks ;)

      Delete
  6. Mhmmmm. I'm sorry it let you down!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't know if I know the movie, now I'm curious. But I definitely didn't know the book. Well I confess when it's about planet it's not for me, it's that and robots lol, the two elements I don't realy like in a book. Well there are some exceptions, it's true. But I"m sorry it wasn't for you...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are two adaptions I'm aware of. One from 1972 and another from 2002.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069293/
      www.imdb.com/title/tt0307479/

      It's less about the planet (than I would have liked) and more about human psychology and relationship with religion. I usually recommend reading the book before seeing the film(s), but the 2002 film with George Clooney is only 99 minutes and would take less of your time than reading the book, if you're interested in trying it anyway.

      The thing is, I think I would have enjoyed this book more had I read it before going to university and learning all that science.

      Delete
  8. I like back-story and want to know WHY. I haven't seen the movie either..LOL Maybe i will skip the book and watch the movie on this one..LOL

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An hour and a half (or two for the 1972 version) for a film or six hours for a book. That's the choice you'll be making.

      It's a worthy story, just not one for me.

      Delete
  9. I never thought the movie looked all that great!

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    Replies
    1. From what I remember it was too slow and contemplative for my taste at the time. In other words couldn't have been that great if I walked away so easily. ;)

      Delete

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