What’s it all about?:
A classic work of science fiction by renowned Polish novelist and satirist Stanislaw Lem.
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.
What did I think?:
This fascinating novel is one I have been meaning to read for a while, and have finally managed to get round to. It was a choice for one of my book clubs, and there is certainly enough material to make an interesting discussion! The story itself takes place on another planet (the aptly named Solaris) which Kris Kelvin a psychologist has come to study in co-operation with two other scientists. This is due to the absence and yet presence of life in the form of a great ocean that covers the entirety of the planet. But is there intelligent life on this planet? Well, if intelligent life means that a planet can reproduce beings from the scientists past, namely Kelvin’s long dead wife Harey, as touchable creatures that can interact, then yes, that is probably quite intelligent! Heartbreakingly, Kelvin’s wife committed suicide when she was quite young, and returns to Kelvin the age she was when she died, while Kelvin himself is quite a bit older in the present time, and it is not surprising that he finds her return very difficult to deal with and accept. I found the beginning parts of this novel incredibly creepy and atmospheric, and it appeared to hold a lot of promise regarding where the story was headed.
However, the rest of the story does not focus on the difficulties between Harey and Kelvin as much as I would have liked, and was particularly heavy on the scientific aspects of the alien species. And I say this as a scientist! While I found some of the science intriguing to read, it seemed slightly too much when I was hoping for a more emotional connection with the characters. The author was clearly passionate about what he was writing nevertheless, and I’m definitely glad I read this novel even if some parts were a bit hard to handle. In particular, the way the ocean seemed to be communicating with the scientists was interesting, and slightly disturbing when you look at the story as a whole. Apparently the story has been made into a film more than once, the most recent one starring George Clooney, although I haven’t seen either. There has been criticism that the most recent adaptation focused too heavily on the romance between the two main characters, but I am still slightly intrigued to see how it comes across. If anyone recommends it please let me know!
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):