Monday, June 06, 2011


By Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem is a forgotten man of science fiction. In the ‘60s and ‘70s he crafted amazing visions of man’s place in his technological world and probed the meaning of artificial intelligence, order in chaos, and even reality itself. Today he’s best-remembered as the guy who wrote the novel Solaris was based on. I never saw the movie, so I don’t know if that’s fair or not, but for sure Solaris is a first-rate novel. Tales of Pirx the Pilot is a first rate collection of short stories!

We meet Pirx in "The Test", a story that manages to be a white-knuckle ride while having a laugh. Pirx starts out a goofy knucklehead trying to pass his cadet training. He is distinguished by little save bulldog perseverance. Lem’s vision of space travel is diametrically opposite the clean, well-lighted comfort of the Enterprise. He’s the sort of author who considers what it’s like to cross the surface of the Moon in a spacesuit that doesn’t quite fit.

Lem was fond of the detective genre and this collection has some gems of technological detection in the stories "The Conditioned Reflex" and "On Patrol". The standout in Pirx is the final story "Terminus". Lem had a feel for robots beyond anthropomorphized kitsch or dry techno-babble. Here he creates a haunting story of a robot bringing messages from the dead. It’s a claustrophobic tale that sends shivers down my spine.

Tales of Prix the Pilot has the high quality that made Lem and internationally respected author. Forget the pretentious hype, he could write stories that held you like a bear trap.
-Dave  Hardy

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