“5...4...3...2...1… Blast off!”, this in effect is the beginning of the book Solaris. We are catapulted in a rocket away from the comfy knowledge of our home planet Earth, and we jet off into the unknown, into outer space, and off onto an adventure that will change how we see the world. But that’s where the commonalities between Solaris and other science fiction books begin to end.
Science Fiction is a well-worn genre, with many of the great authors since 1850 exploring into the sci-fi genre, or at least into books that you would call dystopias or utopias. Lots of this sci-fi can have a somewhat predictable format of space exploration, possible alien discovery, a threat to humans from the aliens, or vice versa, a battle or struggle, finally then a resolution of the tension. Stanislav Lem’s classic book Solaris does echo some of this story arc, and yet it also stands a million lightyears out and away from its peers in many respects.
It is rare to find a sci-fi book that entails quite so much philosophy of mind, neuro-scientific exploration, or indeed general questioning of the nature of our consciousness. Be warned, this is no standard sci-fi quest, this book contains a psychological exploration into what it is that generates consciousness. It asks you page-after-page to check what your definition of a conscious being is. And every time you form an answer the next page forces you to redefine your conclusion...
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