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Book Ramblings

Long winded reviews

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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

Solaris

Solaris - Stanisław Lem, Bill Johnston Always nice to take a break in the middle of a long book (Les Miz!) and read something nice and short. Solaris clocks in at only around 200 pages (I read the Kindle edition). It started off like a creepy haunted house story but quickly morphs into something very odd and mind blowing. Solaris is a planet with a single ginormous occupant, a living ocean of some weird alien liquid. When us puny humans set up a hovering station there and started messing about with the living ocean the latter does not retaliate exactly but sends the humans a copy of the person from their past who cause them the most guilt. Their motive for doing this is unknown, just a very alien alien alienating humans with their alieness, my guess is they just want to mess with their heads.

I have seen the 2002 movie version of Solaris starring George Clooney (who adorns the awful paperback cover making out with his costar), I don't actually remember anything about the movie which is probably indicative of something, I probably fell asleep which I often do when watching a leisurely paced movie. The plot still interests me however, and this book has been in my TBR pile for the longest time. For me the book works much better than the movie because the quiet tone and the staidly pace is fine for books as reading is a more intimate experience than watching movies. I am happy to report that the Kindle edition I read was directly translated from the original Polish edition by Prof Bill Johnson*. For many years the only print editions you can find is the one translated by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox from a French translation (no idea by who) so what you'd get is a translation of a translation. That sort of thing is bound to play hell with the accuracy. In any event this is by no means an easy breezy read, there are passages of very dry infodump full of neologisms that caused by attention to drift into the unknown until the narrative return to the characters.

Over all I find this to be a fascinating read when the author is not waxing lyrical about “mimoids,” “symmetriads’ and “asymmetriads,”and such. The concept and ramification of the copy humans (called "guests" or "G-Formations" in the book) fascinating as they are not androids or ghosts, they are more like simulations given flesh. They can not leave you even if they want to, and they are unaware of their true nature. This leads to some unusual human drama and heart breaking scenes. If you like thought provoking scifi (with hardly any action to speak of) this one is not to be missed.