Rediscover: Solaris

In Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, humankind has conquered the vast distances of the cosmos but has yet to master his own mercurial mind. The planet Solaris is covered by a single, seemingly sentient ocean and orbits a binary system of one red and one blue star. For more than a century, this titanic organism has baffled scientists--the obsessive specialists called Solarists--who pursue meaningful contact with this alien life form. Psychologist Kris Kelvin is the latest of such seekers to arrive on Solaris Station. But he finds the orbital habitat in chaos, with one scientist dead by suicide, another on the verge of lunacy and a third locked in his laboratory, conversing with someone who shouldn't exist. Solaris, it seems, has finally answered humanity's call--by reaching into the scientists' minds and resurrecting lost loved ones.

Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006) was a Polish writer whose speculative fiction relied on philosophy as much as cosmology to explore the inner and outer workings of the universe. Solaris was first published in Warsaw in 1961, though the novel was not available in English until 1970 after it was first translated into French. Solaris has been turned into three films, mostly recently Steven Soderbergh's 2002 adaptation starring George Clooney. Between the stunning imagery of the Solarian Ocean and the novel's thematic depth, Solaris has earned its high perch in the pantheon of sci-fi classics. It was last published in 2002 by Mariner ($13.95, 9780156027601). --Tobias Mutter

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