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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

Solaris - Stanisław Lem, Jean-Michel Jasiensko, Joanna Kilmartin, Steve Cox Many sci-fi authors think that they write about aliens. The truth is, they really don't. Instead, they essentially write about humans. Most sci-fi aliens are little more than an allegory for humanity, a mirror through which we can see ourselves - maybe slightly different-looking, with more (or fewer) appendages, different senses, funny names, different social structures - but still unmistakably human. And so, when we think of aliens as shown in popular literature/ cinematography, 99% of us will imagine these ...... .............. ... rather than this... Whichever way the sci-fi aliens are described, there is always something about them that we can relate to. Basically, it serves the age-old purpose of self-insertion of a reader into a book. (*) * This is the same excuse that Hollywood gives any time it wants to show us a society different from ours and inevitably sticks a "relatable" protagonist there - usually a macho white guy. That's when Lem strikes with his unusual and brainy unconventional sci-fi story. He takes the long-standing dream of establishing contact with aliens and turns the concept completely around. His planet-sized (possibly) living ocean is so ... well... alien that there is no way humans can comprehend or relate to its vast alienness. Even worse, the ocean does not seem interested. See, one of the worst things you can do to people is not care, ignore them. As a species, we crave attention and recognition. But, unlike the aliens of our space dreams that may love us or hate us or despise us, the Ocean of Solaris does not seem to particularly care. Which sends humans into a frenzy leading to volumes of scientific research. Does it not understand us? Does it not care? is it primitive? Is it unbelievably advanced? What's the deal? Are we nothing but annoyance to it, ants crawling on its surface? Is it even alive? As a matter of fact, what is "alive"?What I think is fascinating about this story is that we never get answers. The ocean remains there, vast and alien, with its secrets unrevealed. All we have is speculation and childlike wonder. And failure to comprehend why it seems to torture humans that study it, sending them living ghosts from their past - in case of psychologist Kris Kelvin, his long-dead wife Harey Rheya (not sure why the name was changed in the translation). Why? We don't know. The beauty and the power of this book is that we will never know. Some things are just not for us to understand. What makes us human is that we will keep trying.The movies based on this book - a beautiful Tarkovsky version and that other one with George Clooney - seemed to focus more on the human characters, which is natural. But to me this will always remain an brilliant, albeit a little dry story of a mysterious and alien ocean which may or may not be alive and may or may not even care.