Monday, April 5, 2010

Stanislav Lem - Solaris

Few people can sing "Non non, je ne regrette rien" on their deathbeds. Most will regret a few things they have or haven't done during their lifetimes. Kris, the protagonist of Solaris is no exception. When he was young he wanted to split with his girlfriend, Rheya. She threatened to kill herself if he moved out. He didn't believe she would do it and left. Sadly, she did do it. Ten years later he's sent to the Solaris station hovering above the planet Solaris to investigate what happened to it's crew. He's still having troubles with himself. I couldn't know that she would really do it, right? Should I have gone back and removed the pills she used to commit suicide? Questions we would all ask ourselves in a similar situation yet noone ever gets answers. Kris is lucky however as he gets a second chance. One day after his arrival at the station he meets Rheya.

He's well aware that she can not be real, she died after all. And some things point out that she's not a real person. If she moves too far from him she starts to panick and giving her a physical examination proves that she is indeed not a real human being. However, if she looks like a human, speaks like a human and talks likes a human, does it make any difference? Kris slowly gets more and more attached to her through the course of the book. Meanwhile the two other scientists in the stations are battling their own demons from the past. And they'd rather shoot their demons out of the airlock. Kris can not let this happen to his beloved Rheya.

Although there are three persons on the station Kris is mostly alone and only talks to his colleagues to share their ideas on the "visitors". There's a big sense of loneliness and I can't imagine a place that is lonelier than a space station on a foreign planet. Of course Kris is not really alone, he has Rheya. Seeing how he only has one person to connect to it's no wonder that he doesn't want to let her go.

Mixed in all this is the background story of the planet and the question of Rheya's origin. The planet seems to be one huge, intelligent creature which creates figures from its oceans. Is the planet reading their minds to create their most precious thoughts? And for what purpose? Kris wonders about this as much as we do.

The book feels like a mixture of great passages with mediocre ones. As long as the book deals with people it's a very good book. Kris' thoughts and discussions about his colleagues and of course Rheya read like a great psychological thriller. But on the other side there are also long passages that deal with the previous research that went into the planet, Solaris. These passages are too slow paced and I don't feel that they contribute to the overall story. Overall however, Solaris is an interesting search into our own minds.

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