Solaris by Stanislaw Lem — I will go on record and state that this book can be a slog. At times plodding and self-indulgent, Lem has no qualms about giving us descriptive scenes that read like old IBM mainframe manuals written in the 80s. But on my second read of this fifty-year-old novel, it occurred to me that perhaps the style of the narrative serves as a plot function for the novel. That, at its kernel, humanity is a boring species, so the sometimes-boring prose reflects such an assertion  (and I’m further convinced of this as there are times Lem puts together jaw-dropping scenes and situations). We are wired to see ourselves in everything. Additionally, as a human, we are quite content with the status quo. Let’s not excite our lives with the addition of alien life, alien thoughts.

But the primary point of argument present in Solaris is that of identity (what makes a person… a person… a common thread in science fiction). If Kelvin sees the alien as his wife, then by all intent and purposes, isn’t she that person (especially if the construct has her memories)?

Jason Sizemore
Five Genre Books that Raise Mind-numbing Philosophical Questions