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«Фіаско» — чи не найпохмуріший твір видатного польського фантаста С. Лема. По суті, це розповідь про спробу контакту земної місії із цивілізацією далекої планети Квінта, контакту, який обернувся для землян цілковитим провалом, а для квінтян — тотальним небуттям. Своїм «Фіаско» письменник наче стверджує, що людство доти буде приречене на поразку, допоки не вийде із платонівської печери, в якій само себе ув'язнило.

416 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1986

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About the author

Stanisław Lem

444 books3,623 followers
Stanisław Lem (staˈɲiswaf lɛm) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer of Jewish descent. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of Solaris, which has twice been made into a feature film. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon claimed that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world.

His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology, the nature of intelligence, the impossibility of mutual communication and understanding, despair about human limitations and humankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction, but others are in the form of essays or philosophical books. Translations of his works are difficult and multiple translated versions of his works exist.

Lem became truly productive after 1956, when the de-Stalinization period led to the "Polish October", when Poland experienced an increase in freedom of speech. Between 1956 and 1968, Lem authored 17 books. His works were widely translated abroad (although mostly in the Eastern Bloc countries). In 1957 he published his first non-fiction, philosophical book, Dialogi (Dialogues), one of his two most famous philosophical texts along with Summa Technologiae (1964). The Summa is notable for being a unique analysis of prospective social, cybernetic, and biological advances. In this work, Lem discusses philosophical implications of technologies that were completely in the realm of science fiction then, but are gaining importance today—like, for instance, virtual reality and nanotechnology. Over the next few decades, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological, although from the 1980s onwards he tended to concentrate on philosophical texts and essays.

He gained international fame for The Cyberiad, a series of humorous short stories from a mechanical universe ruled by robots, first published in English in 1974. His best-known novels include Solaris (1961), His Master's Voice (Głos pana, 1968), and the late Fiasco (Fiasko, 1987), expressing most strongly his major theme of the futility of mankind's attempts to comprehend the truly alien. Solaris was made into a film in 1972 by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972; in 2002, Steven Soderbergh directed a Hollywood remake starring George Clooney.

He was the cousin of poet Marian Hemar.

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Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,359 reviews11.8k followers
October 15, 2022

“I don't think anything can behave as unintelligently as intelligence.”
― Stanisław Lem, Fiasco

In many important respects Fiasco is Stanisalw Lem’s crowning achievement. Publsihed in 1986 toward the end of the Polish author's distinguished career spanning more than half a century, the novel contains at its heart a key theme revisited by Mr. Lem over the years: the impact of science and technology on multiple dimensions of intelligence and communication.

What a literary achievement! Please do not be thrown off by the label "science fiction." To be sure, generous helpings of scientific data and detail are proffered to satisfy any reader with an interest in science; but, more importantly, especially for non-science types like myself, Fiasco probes an assortment of gripping philosophical conundrums and is a hugely engaging adventure. I was enthralled every step of the journey as I accompanied the crew on their expedition to distant planet Quinta to communicate with the Quintans.

The time is mid-twenty-first century and travel between planets and moons is commonplace. From the orbit of one such moon, Titan by name, the spaceship Eurydice is launched on its quest to make contact with what is judged by top international scientists a technically advanced civilization. Such pooling of intellectual resources is possible since in this future time there is worldwide peace and global cooperation. Thanks for the cheery prospect, Stanislaw! Too bad your optimism doesn’t endure when the Earthlings reach planet Quinta.

The ship is massive, as large as a high-rise building – many rooms and hallways and chambers large enough to hold smaller space vehicles. The crew includes a flight commander and various chiefs overseeing things like power, communications and medicine. Accomplished experts within the fields of physics, biology, geology and other sciences are present along with a Dominican monk in the role of adviser.

Of course, the inclusion of a Catholic father adds real spice to the flavor and shape of how decisions are to be made. Although Catholicism was very much part of the culture in his home country of Poland, Stanislaw Lem made a public statement on why he became an atheist: “For moral reasons: the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created intentionally."

Also on board is a pilot awakened after spending decades in cryonic deep freeze – his own “last resort” decision in consequence of a botched rescue mission. Did I say awakened? Perhaps resurrected from the dead would be more accurate, at least according to top physician Dr. Gilbert's philosophy of personal identity. We listen in on the good doctor's provocative conversation with Dominican Father Arago.

And last, but hardly least, there's DEUS, a supremely advanced twenty-first century supercomputer performing complex calculations in nanoseconds and speaking directly with members of the crew. DEUS is short for Digital Engrammic Universal System but everyone involved in the project recognizes the irony of a direct reference to a deus ex machina.

Back on the pilot returned to life - he can’t recall his past name, it could be Prix or Parvis. As readers, we know Parvis from his mini misadventure in Chapter One; Lem fans will recognize Prix from the author’s Tales of Prix the Pilot. Anyway, among the more intriguing sections of the novel is his return to consciousness and interactions with a Socrates-style teaching computer in efforts to help restore his memory and educate him on the latest technologies. A particular statement made by the teacher resonates on what is to follow once the ship attempts to communicate with the Quintans: “The Mystery of the Silent Universe has become a challenge to Earth’s science.”

Additionally captivating are the embedded shorter tales within the novel: the first tells how two sixteenth century Spanish conquistadors violated sacred ground in their attempt to unmask the mystery surrounding an ancient Aztec deity; and the second an excerpt from a book of science fiction the resuscitated pilot reads one evening, a spellbinding, spine chilling yarn about an Indiana Jones-style treasure seeker venturing through South American jungle to reach a vast region where termites rule.

Under a blazing tropical sun the termites have built over a million white mounds, row after row after row, thirty feet high and harder than cement. Each and every one of these mounds seethes with termite activity within. And at the very center of this termite city there is a bent, black mound.

Our adventurer recounts how he brought dynamite, airplane gasoline, insecticides, gas masks and other heavy duty equipment to lead an expedition to the land of termites and uncover the secrets of the black mound. However, what he ultimately discovers after penetrating to the heart of this insect nation deepens rather than solves any of nature’s secrets. I include a brief sketch of this embedded tale since it unquestionably contains many parallels with the ship's excursion to Quinta.

Reaching their destination and sending a series of digital transmissions but receiving no answer, a small crew voyages to the surface of Quinta in their probing craft, the Hermes. They detect one moving object the size of a boulder that increases its speed to escape their observation. The captain is quick to resolve: “Let’s catch that moth.” He sets the trajectory of pursuit and engages the craft’s hunt program. Go get ‘um cowboy! Less than a mile away from the Quinta prey, the Hermes discharges a missile with prehensile arms, grasps it and conducts an initial examination. Clearing any safety issue with DEUS, the crew then takes the trophy of their chase on board for future analysis.

Moth, pursuit, hunt, prey, trophy, chase - these are the actual words articulated by captain and crew. Such language is aggressive; such language is the language of war. How far are these future space explorers from the mindset of prehistoric hunters or the Greek warriors at the gates of Troy? How will the consequences of this initial assertive strategy play themselves out?

Pondering Stanislaw Lem’s work, many additional philosophic questions loom up for consideration. Here are several: Are humans so warlike that nearly any communication from aliens will be interpreted as a threat requiring retaliation? Why didn't Nakamura, the perceptive Japanese physicist, recommend a sense of humility all along? Nakamura states: Where there is mind, there is cruelty. Is this an accurate observation? Would it have been wise to include a Zen master on this mission teaching the crew meditation and the cultivation of "No Mind?" What's the sound of one brutal hand clapping?

“A man craves ultimate truths. Every mortal mind, I think, is that way. But what is ultimate truth? It's the end of the road, where there is no more mystery, no more hope. And no more questions to ask, since all the answers have been given. But there is no such place.
The Universe is a labyrinth made of labyrinths. Each leads to another. And wherever we cannot go ourselves, we reach with mathematics. Out of mathematics we build wagons to carry us into the nonhuman realms of the world.”
― Stanisław Lem, Fiasco
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
June 7, 2020
Respecting the Eternally Dead

This is science fiction at its best. It is scientific because it employs technology that is not yet available but is nevertheless plausible in theory. It is fictional not because it proposes some strange physics in an alien galaxy-far-away but because it presents an alternative cosmology to the one that exists, unchallenged, in our own heads. This is a counter-fiction that is shocking and intriguing in equal measure; and it makes Fiasco a masterpiece.

Lem reveals and overturns an unrecognized presumption, a prejudice really, we make about the universe: the anthropomorphic conceit that life emerges from mere matter, when it does, as a sort of developmental triumph. Life represents progress; the more complex the life which evolves, the more advanced the world in which it occurs. Living things, we think, are special: they have purpose; they adapt to the world in order to achieve their purposes; in the case of humankind, they are even capable of choosing among purposes. In short, life is teleological. Even if we reject religious belief, we tend to accept that this apparent trajectory reflects the purposefulness of the cosmos which produced it.

But just suppose that we’ve got this narrative of cosmic progress wrong. Suppose that purposeless matter - not just lifeless matter but matter that has no potential at all to produce life, as on a moon of Saturn - is not only the dominant mass in the universe, but it is also a superior substance. It is superior because it is not subject to the laws of genetic evolution. It exists without having to conform to environmental vagaries. In fact, extreme environmental conditions allow this matter to express incredibly original, even creative, forms. Dead matter need not struggle for a place in the universe, nor need it prevail over other dead matter. To describe the situation succinctly: dead matter is free, liberated eternally from the “guillotine of evolution.”

The possibility of travel to other places in and beyond the solar system has perennially provoked speculation about the existence of dead matter. But we duck the issue of infinite cosmic ‘waste’. And we temporise about it until the scientific analysis is ‘complete’. We try desperately to give dead matter purpose. We search for life on Mars and Venus, even if it might now be extinct, because the thought of the dominance of dead matter is disturbing. We fantasize about mineral deposits on the Moon or travel to other planets, or even galaxies, to find places of refuge or needed resources for a depleted Earth. We look for intelligent signals from deep space in the hope of forging some kind of cosmic companionship. We may no longer consider ourselves the centre of the universe; nevertheless it is all for us - to use, to explore, to communicate with. If there is intelligent life elsewhere, it too is instrumental for our well-being. Either they can teach us or we them. The camaraderie of the living!

We thus give purpose to these places - but only in our imagination. They have no inherent purpose or at least none we could accept as such - for us, for any other form of life, but most importantly for themselves. If they consist of dead matter, they will never develop. They will never be used to become more than they are. They may be reduced to their constituent components of particles and energies in a super nova or black hole or in the nuclear engines of space craft, but by escaping genetic evolution they will forever evade the constraints of teleology. They exist immutably and only for themselves. In Christianity this is a definition of God.

If another intelligent civilization does exist, it too has been subject to the inscrutable, and debilitating, process of evolution. And evolution implies competition, conflict, and very un-Godlike action to overwhelm one’s living opponents. Recent anthropological findings confirm that the rise of primitive Homo Sapiens was at the expense of not only others in the genus Homo but most of the existing fauna in the areas Sapiens invaded. From Australia, to the islands of the Pacific, and into North and South America, humankind was a persistent serial killer of mammals, and marsupials, as well as the insects and flora which relied upon them. Why should any other intelligent species be ignorant of the reality of evolution. [See the recent Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind For a fascinating account of the natural destructiveness of our species: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...]

Such a conception is obviously problematic for Christian, as well as other monotheistic, beliefs for a variety of reasons. But Lem hones in on the central doctrine of Christian thought: resurrection from the dead. Resurrection is thrown into reverse; it is not a sign of divine mercy but an obscene curse. The resuscitation of a corpse, that is the reconstituting of life from dead matter, isn’t a divinely inspired miracle but a cosmically sinful tragedy. The corpse is forced from its liberated state of union with the divine back into the slavery of the genetically dependent world and straight back into the miserable competition among living things. The medical technology that Lem invents to allow such resuscitation is therefore clearly infernal, profoundly evil in its intent.

Lem’s cosmology isn’t Gnostic or nihilist. His heaven or nirvana or place of ultimate refuge is not somewhere else outside the universe that we see and experience; it is located within this very universe in its most perfect state, one of absolute internal stasis and contentment. What we call dead is really divine. What is not dead produces chaos. ‘Disordered’ is the theological term which the Dominican theologian aboard the space craft Eurydice might use. ‘Fiasco’ is the theatrical equivalent.

Lem uses his technology to get us as far away from ourselves as possible in order for his fiction to take effect. At such a distance, the fiction may not be fictional at all. "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars... "
Profile Image for Krell75.
287 reviews16 followers
May 9, 2023
All'improvviso precipito, abbracciando la superficie di annichilazione di Ade.
Come l'Euridice, in procinto di rallentare lungo l'involuta per Beta Harpyiae, incontro alcune contorte isograve e attraverso l'orizzonte degli eventi come un futuro Argonauta.
Cavalcando il vortice delle correnti bradicroniche, fluttuo nelle spirali di retrocronicità.
Rischiando poi di annichilirmi, in auto-difesa, ad opera di una configurazione toroidale di superfici isogravitazionali in rapida contrazione e dilatazione, persisto.
I quanti di energia, emergendo in una nube di adroni, infine, mi porteranno a destinazione.

"L'universo è un labirinto fatto di altri labirinti"

Scienza o fantascienza? Scienza o poesia?
Lem e la sua sconfinata cultura mi rapisce e mi trasporta attraverso i freddi spazi siderali per raggiungere un lontano pianeta in cui è presente vita intelligente.
La missione finale è di effettuare un primo contatto, ma non sarà così scontato.

Lem analizza le dinamiche di primo contatto con una civiltà extraterrestre, i dubbi sull'efficacia del programma, le incomprensioni e gli eventuali errori, sommergendo il lettore con perle di cultura scientifica che lasciano in preda allo stupore.
Romanzo forse inadatto a lettori non avvezzi alla fantascienza hard dove il reparto scientifico la fa da padrone.

Già positivamente colpito dallo straordinario "Solaris", con la sua visione poetica e filosofica di intelligenza "esterna", questo "il pianeta del Silenzio" risulta semplicemente strepitoso pur nella sua cronica visione pessimistica.
Profile Image for A..
Author 1 book6 followers
February 26, 2008
This is one of the best, and also one of the most brutal, books I've ever read. It is a hard read. This is not a book for the faint; it explores, as does a lot of communist science fiction, the utter impossibility of rational exchange between crazy-different cultures. Also a lot in here about the failings of man.

Not a book for the faint of heart.
Profile Image for Andrej Karpathy.
110 reviews3,480 followers
May 15, 2016
Do you despise "sci-fi" featuring aliens with legs/faces/eyes/fur that highlight the author's intellectual shallowness at best or intentionally insult your intelligence at worst? Does your heart rate accelerate when a spaceship in a book/movie flies between worlds with a flip of a switch magical warp drive - ignore relativity - tech without any expectation that you might be puzzled by the blatant inconsistencies with the physical laws of our universe? If intellectually lazy pretend-sci-fi is not your thing, you will Love Stanislaw Lem, and you will love this book.

Hop on a journey to the planet Quinta, and admire the mysteries of a beautifully-composed snapshot of a civilization that evolved along an entirely different path. Ponder the utterly naive notion that civilizations belonging to different regions of a society/mind space can share enough culture to establish effective communication. Admire the thought that informed the detail of each brush stroke and the consistency behind the full composition of this vision of the future. Bask in the philosophical digressions on space travel, inter-civilization morality, or advanced artificial intelligence and its place alongside humans. And watch the mission's seemingly simple objective violently disintegrate into a mirage, recognizing by its somber end its certain futility.

There are parts to complain about, parts to question, and parts to skim, but one does not take a ride in a Tesla Model S and then complain in the review that the cup holder was slightly too far to the back. 5/5.
Profile Image for Jake.
172 reviews88 followers
January 30, 2010
Fiasco is a deeply pessimistic science fiction novel. It's about the typical hard sci-fi topic: first contact between humans and aliens. And as in "Rendezvous With Rama," "The Forever War," and "The Mote in God's Eye," much of the fun is the detailed imagining of how interstellar space travel would actually work, complete with relativistic time distortion and keeping humans alive in alien worlds. What separates this book from those others is Lem's belief that true understanding between different sentient races is impossible, and an encounter between them must necessarily end in total disaster. If that sounds depressing, that's because it is. And Lem's incredibly dense style, complete with ten page digressions on the application of game theory to space war, doesn't make it any easier.

But there are times when Lem's writing is as good or better than that of any other science fiction writer that I've read. Imagine Borges crossed with Arthur C. Clarke, and you'll have an idea of what to expect.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,977 followers
July 6, 2021
Stanislaw Lem is a treasure in the SF field. This Polish SF writer had a long career and an extremely sharp mind that consistently outperformed just about anyone in sheer wit, complexity, and depth of ideas, and truly thought-provoking intellectual tales.

You know, intellectual tales that happen to have resurrected racing pilots on Titan, shipboard computers that aren't constrained by Asimov laws but are truly on the path of interdependence with humanity, and situations that shatter the concept of Star Trek's preponderance of the Prime Directive.

Please don't mistake me here. This particular novel goes well beyond the call of any SFnal duty by giving us a first contact scenario with us reaching an alien world that NEVER becomes cliche. Indeed, Lem is fully exhaustive in great hart-SF science, complex and rich Game Theory analysis, and even very thoughtful philosophical backtracking and out-of-the-box thinking.

I RARELY see any science fiction go this out of its way to explore the REAL complications of communications and warfare while consistently sitting us in the center of our own humanity, immersing us so deeply in ourselves that we are trapped by not only our logic and our instrumentality, but we're trapped by our own biology.

Sound like a good philosophical premise? Especially when it is housed in a great story that seems so perfectly rational -- and truly horrific -- that the philosophy is subsumed deeply within the tale until it jumps out at us and tears us to shreds?

Let's just say that this is up there with some of my absolute favorites. Hard-SF by a true master of SF.

It happens to be his last novel, but for anyone who has had the pleasure to read his Solaris, know that it might very well be better, too.

That's saying a lot. Solaris is one of the best grandmaster SF's out there.
Profile Image for George Kaslov.
99 reviews133 followers
February 19, 2019
That title certainly prepared me for the frustrations and ultimate failure that the characters felt during that whole endeavor.

Anyway we return to Stanislaw Lems favorite theme: Who are we to think of ourselves as something more than apes in face of the universe. Just look at his critique of the cold war and this novels most famous quote: “I don't think anything can behave as unintelligently as intelligence.” All the while throwing logical and emotional curveballs at us.

Are you sure who Mark Tempe is?
Profile Image for William.
233 reviews33 followers
March 13, 2022
Fiasco is the fourth book I've read by Stanislaw Lem, and though I loved them all, my favorite. The others I've read are Solaris, The Star Diaries, and The Futurological Congress. Fiasco is a book about the human diaspora, first contact, and the difficulties dissimilar cultures face when trying to communicate.

Stanislaw Lem is my favorite storyteller. Maybe not my favorite author, although he is at the top of this list too, but nobody can spin a crazy yarn like he could. There are two short stories in Fiasco that seem oddly disconnected from the rest of the book when you first read them. The first one is the story of Cracatalq. The second one is the story of the termite mounds. Pay attention to both stories, because they are both directly relevant to the main story, especially act 3, and the finale.

As I mentioned above, Fiasco deals with the difficulties dissimilar cultures face when trying to communicate. Lem wrote this book in 1986, and I believe he is describing the cold war between NATO countries and the Soviet Union. He lays bare the futility and absurdity of threat based diplomacy, and exposes the underlying game theory, "the safety of mutually assured destruction," as a guaranteed Fiasco.

"Thus, did the show of strength go awry, and result in cataclysm."

All world leaders should be required to read this book. Each diplomatic Fiasco we read about in the news, each time our leaders escalate the rhetoric one more notch, takes us that much closer to global annihilation. Only a fool could think the continued threat of mutually assured destruction can result in anything but mutual destruction. Our planet is like a blue balloon, surrounded by lunatics with pins threatening to pop it if their demands are not met. Eventually, someone's hand will twitch, or we will find out, too late, that one of them is literally insane. Then, *POP*.

Comparing this part of the book to current events is unavoidable, and you might think it's too heavy a topic because of this. Lem, however, writes with delicate compassion, and a deep understanding of game theory, the human condition, and a soft sense of humor. He resists the temptation to point fingers, and/or give in to depression, and provides the most well-thought-out and convincing discussion of cold wars I've ever read.

I'm not even scratching the surface of Lem's analysis, and I urge everyone to read it for themselves. This is the book OUR world needs right now.

As with any book by Stanislaw Lem, aliens and alien landscapes are wildly imaginative, without seeming forced, silly, or overly derivative. The sci-fi elements in Fiasco have stood the test of time, and do not seem dated. I never caught myself thinking "this is great for the time it was written," only "this is great."

Fiasco is not the first Lem book to be my current favorite book. Solaris and The Futurological Congress both were for a while. Great as they are, Fiasco now holds the #1 spot on K-Billy's Super Sci-Fi Books.

What a great read.
19 reviews
November 29, 2013

A fiasco on Saturn's Moon, Titan, causes the loss of several men. Many years later, the starship Eurydice is built on Titan for a mission to the far side of the coalsack nebula, to investigate a planet where there they've found evidence of technological extra-terrestrial intelligence. The bodies of the men are found and packed aboard the Eurydice for revival, if possible. It happens that only one can be revived using the parts of another, but unfortunately they have no way of knowing exactly who they're reviving. The man awakes aboard Eurydice, lightyears from the Solar System and generations from anyone who might know him, and he doesn't know who he is either.

"Tempe" as the man comes to call himself, has little angst for this, but suffers from being a bit of a fifth wheel. The Eurydice has the best technology, the most advanced computers and equipment, the most intelligent scientists. They have made the most thorough and carefully laid plans, methods, analysis, and hypotheses. Tempe, a man out of time and place, has to work hard to become a full-functioning member of the crew and he does his level best, which happens to be pretty good indeed. Tempe gets assigned to the scout craft of Eurydice to investigate and contact the Quintans while the Eurydice does tricky maneuvers around a nearby black hole.

What they find in the Harpy system on a planet they call Quinta, baffles them utterly. The Quintans have sent out interplanetary probes whose purpose they cannot fathom and which seem to have been sabotaged from the start. Around the planet is a mysterious ring of ice and many satellites of war. On the moon of the planet is a mysterious artifact, apparently abandoned. The planet has a cloud of EMF jamming all communications. From their space ship they can see installations and buildings on the surface, but no 'beings'. There is evidence of vast structures underground.

The scientists interpret these findings as signs of a prolonged intercontinental war which waxes and wanes, hot and cold. They decide to be cautious...

Fiasco is dense with mysteries and marvels, but patient and methodical with delivering them. I appreciate Lem's intense intellectualism, his work has a reasoning, rational quality. In Fiasco this quality is used to illustrate both great human genius and profound human failings. Although the prose never loses it's calm, I felt increasingly agitated and nervous throughout the exploration. When I finished Fiasco I could hardly speak, I was devastated. Horrified. Heartbroken.

This is an excellent book, but it was hard on me. The technical aspects of the Eurydice mission inspired me to read Kip Thorne's Black Holes and Time Warps and, unexpectedly, I found Thorne's book revealing about Fiasco's themes too.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Jose Moa.
519 reviews65 followers
February 4, 2017
Fiasco can be seen as the consecuence of break the first directive of Star Trek.
Fiasco is a complex SF novel that deepens in a recurrent issue in Lem : the fundamental dissability of the human mind of understand or comunicate with alien minds as in his novels Solaris or The Invincible.

Is a really hard SF novel,where the scientific face is rigurous in the to day science as for example in the laser or Bussard fussion reactor as propulsion tools in a starship,and is plausible in the extrapolations.
Makes a detailed description of the landscape and meteorological conditions in the Titan moon as no other novel.Almost a little lesson on planetology.

By other side can be seen as a parabola on the cold war and its war game theory and its paradoxes.
Touchs many other points as ethics or the relation of a human mind with a artificial inteligence mind.

In the end ,Fiasco is the consecuence of our antropocentrism and chauvinism,of our lack of empathy and open mind to put ourselves in the other side,the consecuence of our absurd concept of superiority and excepcionality.
A lesson of humility.

A exceptional, deep,hard SF novel of a exceptional,deep,SF writter.
Profile Image for Josh.
153 reviews9 followers
July 29, 2012
I had a hard time reading this book. Not because it's not interesting--I think it deals with some of the most interesting themes in the world--but because Lem makes it really hard to read. It's provocative and fascinating as hell, but damn, it's not very fun to read.
Profile Image for Данило Судин.
495 reviews178 followers
September 14, 2022
Найкращий роман Станіслава Лема. Написаний останнім - і на замовлення німецького видавця. (Там дуже неприємна історія, бо Лем заради більшого гонорару "змінив" видавця, чим підставив свого літературного агента, який Лемові і житло, і стипендію, і цей контракт оформив. Адже після оголошення воєнного стану в ПНР Лем з сім'єю виїхав з Польщі. І, зокрема, завдяки агенту не жив на вулиці в Австрії. Агент допоміг вирішити фінансові проблеми Лема, але натомість очікував на контракт зі "своїм" видавництвом. І тут Лем "перескочив" до того, хто більше платить. Причому, він розумів, що чинить аморально, але в одному листі щиро казав: "Мені були дуже потрібні гроші").

Роман писався важко. Лем писав його за гроші, але, насправді, писати не хотів. Взагалі, романи в такому стилі Лем перестав писати ще наприкінці 1960-х. Його втомлювало описування технологій, декорацій, тобто - створення "картинки". Він одразу хотів переходити до ідей. Тому пише твори, які можна назвати "нарративними": це історії, які написані від першої особи чи романи у форматі нотаток / щоденників. Тут же ж Лем мусив "витискати" з себе текст - щоб подати видавцю.

І критики вважають "Фіаско" вторинним. Загалом, читаючи його, ви це самі помітите: Лем повторює ідеї з інших своїх творів. Опис колонізації Титана (супутника Сатурна) - це ж "Умовний рефлекс" з Розповідей про пілота Піркса. Критики кажуть, що опис експедиції до Дзети Гарпії за стилем нагадує Астронавтів та "Магелланову хмару". Опис цивілізації квінтян - це ж Мир на Землі та Огляд на місці. Опис того, як земляни намагаються з нею встановити контакт - це ж Едем! І тут є ідеї про некроеволюцію, як з Непереможного, а також міркування про "досконалу" цивілізацію, яка була в одному з оповідань Кіберіади. А ще його філософські ідеї з "Суми технології" та Апокрифів. Перелік можна продовжувати.

Втім, на мою думку, це не робить "Фіаско" вторинним. Навпаки, в цьому романі Лем розвиває, продовжує, загострює висловлені раніше ідеї. І саме тому це найкращий його роман.

Водночас він - найпесимістичніший в творчості Лема. Загалом, мав він називатися Переможений . І вийти в одному томі з Непереможним. Таким був задум німецького видавця. Але Лем його "змінив", а тому - щоб уникнути позову - змінив і назву роману. (Адже в контракті було вказано лише назву роману та розмито зазначено, що це роман про подорожі в космосі та контакт з позаземною цивілізацією. Та під такий опис майже всі художні твори Леми підпадають!) І вона стала "Фіаско".

Це шикарний роман, де є і тверда НФ (Лем так описує технології майбутнього, що просто віриш в те, що вони існують), і соціальна / філософська НФ. Але далі не буду спойлерити. Просто завершу цитатою з фіналу роману.

Він замахнувся для нового удару… та так і застиг з піднятими руками: небо над ним спалахнуло сліпучим блиском. «Гермес», відкривши вогонь по щоглах антен поза межами космодрому, наскрізь пробив хмари, дощ в одну мить випарувався білою парою, зійшло лазерне сонце, термічний удар оголив у великому радіусі від туману й хмар усі нагірні схили, що, скільки сягав зір, були вкриті юрмищами голих, беззахисних бородавок, і коли небосяжна павутиняна сіть разом з антенами, які ламались у полум’ї, впала на нього, він зрозумів, що побачив квінтян.
Profile Image for Данило Судин.
495 reviews178 followers
April 23, 2018
Це шедевр, який підсумовує всю творчість Станіслава Лема. Не дивно, що після цього роману він вже не писав белетристики. І, як не дивно, для мене це найкращий його роман - він поєднує в hard sci-fi, і дуже складні філософські та соціальні питання.
Profile Image for Bbrown.
687 reviews84 followers
May 2, 2019
Starts out great, but after its initial third Lem spends too much time on fake science and has characters behave too stupidly to be believable. Despite the themes skillfully woven into the early parts of this book, the rest fails to capitalize on this, and so Fiasco falls far short of one of Lem's other novels about attempted contact, Solaris. I'll be comparing Fiasco to Solaris frequently throughout this review, so if you've haven't read the latter consider yourself warned- and also, go read Solaris, it's excellent.

The opening chapter recounts a pilot using a giant walking robot to attempt to rescue people lost on Jupiter's moon Titan. While it might seem strangely divorced from the rest of the text, instead it skillfully establishes many of the themes and ideas that will be explored throughout the rest of Fiasco. While walking through the frozen structures of Titan the pilot is repeatedly reminded of natural phenomena, highlighting how human beings have a natural inclination to draw connections between things, to see the familiar even where there is nothing but the alien. At one point the pilot is led astray, it turns out by his own reflection. After an accident the pilot resorts to a cryogenic freezing option only slightly better than suicide, his rescue mission a failure.

Fast-forward hundreds of years later and several cryogenically frozen people have been brought aboard a huge space ship that will use a black hole to travel to a distant solar system in an attempt to contact intelligent life. Not all of the frozen people can be unfrozen, however, in fact only one can. The scientists have two candidates that have an exactly equal chance of being revived successfully, and so the scientists in charge of the resurrection agree that they will invent a lie about why one candidate is superior, while in fact the one they choose to resurrect will be selected at random. Again, while this section might seem unrelated to the main contact story, it establishes the idea that human kind needs to master its surroundings through reason, and is even willing to make up a reason where none exists, a falsehood being better than nothing.

While traveling aboard the space ship the resurrected man can't remember who he was before, not that he is much troubled by this, though he lives his old life in his dreams and does not reveal this to the doctors who treat him. He spends some time reading a piece of a story about an explorer who finds a vast colony of ants and wages a campaign to get at the heart of the place, where he finds a mysterious sphere that seems to attract insects no matter where he goes. Not only is it a great story in its own right (one I'd be happy to read more of), it also raises the idea of insane quests focused on things beyond our understanding that, even when successful, still ends with a result that's incomprehensible.

All of this is the prologue to the main contact story, and in my opinion it's by far the best part of the book. It establishes the characters, themes, and tone of the book in an entertaining way and without beating you over the head. Unfortunately, the rest of the book doesn't live up to the foundation this prologue establishes.

After this point Lem dives heavily into the fake science of interstellar travel, giving us pages and pages of explanation for how the journey is being made and why it will only take a certain amount of time. In Solaris, the scientific theories and reports Lem has the characters read all serve a specific purpose: to show that mankind has spent a huge amount of effort trying to understand Solaris, and also that so far mankind has learned absolutely nothing definite about it. In Fiasco, the fake science of interstellar travel serves no such similar purpose, since in the world of this story the fake science discussed is actually the truth- at least it works for the characters here. Thus you have to read about the rationale for the temporal effects of black holes for a significant amount of time when the story could have just had the characters use the black hole, with some perfectly reasonable trepidation, and gotten on with the story from there. The fake science about interstellar travel adds nothing to the book.

Not that the fake science ends when the characters get to the inhabited alien world, rather after the journey the fake science merely switches from fake physics to fake alien sociology. This at least serves a purpose, pretty much the same one the reports served in Solaris: to emphasize that we don't really know anything about what an alien might be like or how they might behave, despite piles and piles of theories that sound logical and scientific on paper. What undercuts this section is that the characters performing this first contact don't behave in reasonable ways. Their first actions are to snatch alien objects orbiting the atmosphere and cut them open, an act that is hard not to interpret as hostile. What is it with first contact stories where the humans' first course of action is to cut into the alien thing and see what happens? They do the same thing in Peter Watts' Blindsight.

The attempts at contact just get more absurd from there. They beam radio signals and lasers onto the planet, ignoring the fact that if an alien did the same thing to them while they were on earth they'd almost certainly not realize it. Eventually they stumble upon the better, although acknowledged as still subpar, idea of projecting images down to the planet. This is after the crew enacts certain measures that are stunningly stupid, including blowing up the moon, possibly the stupidest way to make an alien open up the channels of communication ever conceived, though nearly matched later on in the novel when they start laser-beaming the planet. None of the attempts at contact make much sense, a fact at one point acknowledged by the resurrected character, not that it makes the fact any better. The behavior of the crew paints them all as idiots at best, and homicidal maniacs at worst, nothing like how they were characterized earlier. It's a baffling turn for the narrative to take, made even more confusing by Lem proving in Solaris that he can write a far better contact story than this.

The ending does nothing to mitigate these problems- the resurrected character lands on the planet, and through his scan of the mock ship they sent down we're led to believe that at least some of the crew's conjecture about these aliens was correct. The conjecture all seemed more like projection of the human characters, though, so the reveal that they might actually have been correct was a surprise to me, and not a very satisfying one. Still, the wanderings and observations of the character make it clear that he and the other humans still have no idea what's going on in the planet, and maybe never will. Then the atmosphere of the entire planet is destroyed because the character forgets to check his watch. Fantastic.

I understand what Lem was doing here, trying to show how man's desire to have contact (and understand the universe) no matter what the cost leads to tragedy when faced with something incomprehensible. The book's title of Fiasco makes clear from the outset that this isn't likely to be a very successful attempt. I just wish that Lem had presented a more believable fiasco for a contact mission, one with people that behaved more intelligently, and failure that felt inevitable instead of due to human stupidity.

Damn it Lem, that first third was so strong! But then you follow it up with pages of boring fake science and a subpar first contact story, featuring a crew of psychopaths and idiots. This could have been great, potentially even good enough to rival Solaris, but instead I'm left disappointed.
Profile Image for The Frahorus.
819 reviews82 followers
February 6, 2020
Avendo amato molto il suo capolavoro Solaris ho deciso, dopo qualche anno, di leggere un'altra opera di Lem e mi sono imbattuto ne Il Pianeta del Silenzio.

Il romanzo racconta di una spedizione verso l'ignoto pianeta Quinta al fine di instaurare un contatto con la civiltà che vi abita. Alla spedizione prende parte anche un "resuscitato", ovvero un personaggio, che poi si rivelerà chiave per l'economia del racconto, resuscitato dallo stato di vetrificazione, un congelamento istantaneo dei liquidi organici molto simile alla più comune ibernazione, in cui era caduto a causa di un incidente durante una spedizione di soccorso sul satellite di Saturno, Titano.

Per prima cosa ho riassaporato il particolare e grandioso stile di scrittura di Lem che ti lascia, volente o nolente, sempre a bocca aperta. La seconda cosa che subito ti risalta agli occhi è la sua direi infinita conoscenza scientifica (non a caso l'autore era medico, scienziato biologico, conoscitore della cibernetica e astronautica, filosofo e brillante appassionato di letteratura) che ad alcuni lettori potrebbe risultare noioso in certe sue descrizioni di ambientazioni e/o azioni che compiono i nostri protagonisti. Per citarne una, egli inventa la tecnica della "embrionizzazione". Questa tecnica consente ad un astronauta di sopravvivere all’enorme pressione che si crea all’interno dell’astronave al momento del lancio ad una velocità non lontana da quella della luce. In breve, una macchina fa uscire dal corpo dell’astronauta tutto il sangue (che conserverà con cura in un apposito contenitore) e vi fa entrare un liquido bianco molto più denso del sangue, di nome onax. Ossigenato e nutrito dalla macchina per mezzo dell’onax, l’astronauta dorme per tutta la durata del viaggio in una vasca piena di una soluzione liquida densa. Quando l’astronave arriva a destinazione, la macchina fa uscire l’onax e fa rientrate il sangue nel corpo dell’astronauta, che a quel punto è pronto per svegliarsi. Lem spiega che gli scienziati hanno inventato la tecnica dell’embrionizzazione studiando i pesci che vivono nelle profondità degli oceani. Questi pesci riescono a sopportare il peso dell’oceano perché la pressione interna ai loro corpi, che appaiono molto gonfi, è pari alla pressione esterna.
Durante la lettura, poi, l'autore ci spiega che i nostri astronauti "scavalcano" le enormi distanze cosmiche sfruttando le distorsioni temporali che si determinano nei pressi di una collapsar (come fai a non pensare subito ai viaggi delle astronavi di Star Trek?).

Il tema del romanzo resta soprattutto uno: il tentare di comunicare con un popolo alieno, i quintani in questo caso. Non posso addentrarmi troppo nel tema altrimenti rischio di spoilerare troppo la trama e non mi pare una cosa corretta. L'autore ci fa riflettere se il fine giustifica i mezzi. E non manca neanche la lotta tra gli ideali pacifisti di un monaco (padre Arago) e la logica, quasi spietata e priva di morale, del computer di bordo, DEUS. Il domenicano pensa che gli alieni siano creature ad immagine e somiglianza di Dio come gli uomini, e che di conseguenza gli uomini non abbiano il diritto di trattarli come animali strani. Ad ogni occasione, Arago invita il comandante a non intraprendere nessuna azione che possa arrecare danno, direttamente o indirettamente, ai quintani. Ma è nelle parole dell'ufficiale Lauger che conosciamo il pensiero di Lem:
"L’uomo aspira a conoscere la verità ultima. Ogni mente mortale, credo, è fatta così. Ma dove si trova la verità ultima? È alla fine della strada, dove non c’è più mistero, dove non c’è più speranza. E dove non ci sono più domande da rivolgere, perché si sono già ottenute tutte le risposte. Ma un simile posto non esiste. L’universo è un labirinto fatto di altri labirinti. Ciascuno porta ad un altro. E dove non possiamo arrivare personalmente, arriviamo servendoci della matematica. Mediante la matematica, costruiamo veicoli che ci portano nei regni non umani del mondo. E con la matematica è anche possibile costruire mondi esterni all’universo, indipendentemente dal fatto che esistano o meno. E poi, naturalmente, si può sempre abbandonare la matematica e i suoi mondi, per avventurarsi con la propria fede nel mondo a venire. La gente della stessa risma di Padre Arago si occupa appunto di questo. La differenza tra noi e loro è la differenza tra la possibilità che alcune cose succedano e la speranza di vederle succedere. Il mio campo si occupa di ciò che è possibile, di ciò che è accessibile; il suo, invece, di ciò che si può soltanto sperare, di ciò che diverrà accessibile, faccia a faccia, solo dopo la morte."

Evidentemente, Lem ha una idea sbagliata della fede - cito Giovanna Jacob - Una idea che, purtroppo, è universalmente diffusa nel mondo contemporaneo. Fede non è fideismo. In primo luogo, la fede non è la speranza di vedere succedere qualcosa nell’oltretomba. In secondo luogo, la fede non è una speranza priva di fondamento. La fede è la certezza sul futuro basata sull’esperienza del presente. Il cristiano può ragionevolmente sperare nella vita eterna perché ha ricevuto in pegno il "centuplo quaggiù". Inoltre, la fede non si contrappone alla scienza: completa la scienza. La scienza, per essere precisi, è nata da una costola della teologia cristiana (lo hanno ribadito di recente studiosi come Rodney Stark, Thomas Woods). Lem sostiene che la matematica permette all’uomo di decifrare i misteri dell’universo. Ebbene, Lem non sa che l’idea stessa che l’universo abbia una struttura ordinata e razionale è una idea cristiana. Questa idea è estranea a tutte le culture non cristiane, anche alla razionale cultura greca. Per tutte le culture non cristiane, l’universo è un caos. Per le religioni panteiste, il caos universale è esso stesso dio. Per le religioni politeiste, il caos universale è soggetto all’arbitrio di divinità capricciose ed egoiste. Invece per il Cristianesimo l’universo è governato da un Dio di ragione per mezzo di leggi razionali. Questo Dio di ragione dona all’uomo la ragione e lo mette a capo del creato.
Attenzione: Lem apprezza la morale cristiana, incentrata sull’amore, ma non riesce a concepire l’Incarnazione.

In conclusione: se siete dei lettori che amano i romanzi di fantascienza pieni di colpi di scena e di azione, allora questo romanzo potrebbe risultarvi abbastanza indigesto e lento. Ma se siete dei lettori gourmet allora preparatevi a farvi una scorpacciata di piatti di alto livello, per usare una metafora culinaria.
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
April 26, 2022

As the last novel written by Lem, Fiasco is in many ways a compendium of the motifs and themes dearest to Lem. For this reason, and because it brims with theoretical digressions (not overly long but numerous, and for me absolutely bewitching), I think this novel would be better appreciated by readers who are already conversant in Lem's poetics, so be warned if you're just now getting acquainted with this author.
7 reviews6 followers
April 9, 2011
I consider this Lem's masterpiece. A brilliant story showing a step by step undermining of ideals in the face of foreign thinking, incomplete infornation, suspicion, and prejudices.
Profile Image for Marysya Rudska.
190 reviews66 followers
September 11, 2019
У жанрі наукової фантастики я — читач-новичок. Я читала кілька книжок давно, вони мені сподобались, але я вже нічого не пам’ятаю. І от зараз я взалася з “Фіаско”, щоб відновити контакт з цим жанром.

Фіаско - викликав в мене багато різних емоції і роздумів.
Перша половина роману йшла дуже важко. Прямо дуже. Я люблю олдскульний сторітейлінг: історія й ідеї розкриваються через події, персонажів і діалоги. Як писав Керро в Алісі, що в книжці мають бути картинки і діалоги. Аудіокнижка, звісно, не пропонує картинок, але хоча б діалоги! Лем же мав інші смаки і роман наповнений (переповнений?) описами і монологами. Довгими філософськими монологами. Супер детальними описами технологій. З цього випливає моя друга проблема з текстом - у ньому було надзвичайно багато термінології й описів футуристичної фізики. Звісно, цього і варто було очікувати, перше слово у назві жанру “наукова” і це моя лічна проблема, що мені важко було не втрачати нитку історії. Я не маю нічьо проти фізики, я люблю читати наук-поп, як от Мічіо Каку і передивилась всі документарії ВВС про фізику і астрономію, які знайшла. Але у виконанні Лема мене зовсім не брало. Напевно, це все ж таки, брак знань, адже часом важко було зрозуміти, де опис реалістичних процесів, а де вигаданих. Загалом, всі ці описи я часто прокручувала на прискореному.
Однак друга половина роману, де нарешті почався сюжет мені дуже сподобалась.
Команда астронавтів летить до екзопланети за багато-багато світлових років від Землі, щоб встановити контакт з іншою цивілізацією. Але Лем вивів персонажів у далекий космос до чужої планети на супер-крутому космічному кораблі не для того, щоб розповісти про інопланетян. А для того, щоб розповісти про нас, про людей.
Упродовж спроб встановлення цього контакту люди проявляють цілко�� людські риси. По-перше все побачене трактують з антропоцентричного погляду. Ми всі досі ренесансні люди, у центрі нашого всесвіту не мега-чорна діра, а ми самі. Лем гіперболізував це явище досить яскраво. У певних моментах я починала обурюватися - як так, людство так сильно прогресувало технічно аж до міжзоряних польотів, а астробіологія залишилась на рівні 19-го століття! Чому люди, які здатні керувати неймовірними технологіями не можуть припустити, що розумне життя може бути відмінним від нас.
По-друге, інше - значить гірше. Земляни побачили, що інопланетники мають інші технології і одразу прийшли до висновку, що вони гірші і менш розвинуті. Самовпевненість на межі з абсурдом. Але хіба не це притаманно нашій цивілізації?
Далі, на борту був монах і це було цікаво. Це давало простір для роздумів, як поєднується концепт життя на інших планетах з християнською релігією.
Ну і, напевно найголовніше, людська агресивність і жадоба. Лем наводить паралелі між жадобою золота конкіскадорів і жадобою знань людей, принаймні західної цивілізації. І байдуже якою ціною ці знання дістануться і що з ними робити. Події відбуваються у далекому майбутньому, але люди такі ж самі, як і впродовж усієї історії - завойовники.
Лем це гарно зробив - люди прилетіли багато-багато світлових років, щоб по-суті подивитися в гіганське дзеркало. Можливо інопланетні цивілізації не контактують з нами, не тому, що не можуть, а тому що ми паршивенькі співбесідники.
Мені сподобалось, що в тексті багато посилань на міфи: грецькі, біблійні, європейські (легенда про короля Артура). Це додавало атмосферності й зв’язків з історією людства. Один з моїх улюблених моментів, як земляни транслювали казку інопланетянам. Такий красивий контакт з нашою древньою історією і абсолютно безтолковий в космічних масштабах. Однак, що може ліпше ніж казка, дати нам опис, як цивілізації?
Загалом, читати було складно, але в другій половині дуже цікаво. Не жалкую!
Profile Image for Miloș Dumbraci.
Author 20 books76 followers
May 31, 2022
90% manual de motoare, macarale și rachete a la „realism socialist” - ce-i drept, detaliat, imaginativ tehnic în stil de anii 80, cu pistoane și asemenea, și aparent funcțional, nu stil mambo-jambo. De aici cele 2 stele.
În rest... plictis maxim, filosofie semi-religioasă de trei parale, cam multă depresie a autorului, o urmă vagă de poveste prost închegată (vreo 10% din carte), un singur personaj foarte slab dezvoltat și folosit, restul fiind doar niște nume fără vreun rol, caracteristică sau utilitate în afară de a da replici greoaie - plus un final de-ți vine să-ți bagi plua în ea de viață (se crede mult prea deștept pentru omenirea asta și se confirmă - eu cert nu am înțeles nimic, deci pentru mine chiar a fost prea deștept).
Apropo, semi-spoiler. Teoretic e SF de prim contact. Practic o vagă tatonare are loc de abia în ultimele 50 pag din 403 (!!), iar contactul în ultimele 2 rânduri și atât. O așteptare care nu a meritat deloc.
O corvoadă de citit și după mine fără nicio valoare literară sau sefistică, ceea ce m-a uimit, fiindcă pe Solaris l-am considerat de 5/5.
Nu o recomand decât celor mai mari dușmani ai mei. Am câțiva prin roSF, sper să o citească :D
Profile Image for Ed Holden.
325 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2013
This book is not boring at all -- in fact it deals with a lot of fascinating ideas -- but damn it has problems. Not the least of which is the writing style, which might suffer from a bad translation but I doubt it. Much of the second half of the book is pure tell-don't-show, which must have started out that way in the original Polish unless the translator has been horribly irresponsible, and I would've loved to have instead read those scenes through the POV of a character. Lem can do this: we know because he occasionally does it. But often he's too lazy.

Heck, the first few pages of the book -- the most important pages, the ones in which you hook the reader -- are a deeply lazy narrative. I couldn't tell how many characters were in the scene, or who was speaking to whom, without rereading. And beyond those first pages ... well, the story arc was pretty random. (Spoiler alert: read on only if you don't care about spoilage.) Really, what is the point of the first third of the novel? The main character sets out to rescue an unknown number of survivors of an unknown event on Triton, but fails. He's unfrozen many years (centuries?) later to partake in unrelated events. It's as if King's Roland Deschain starts his quest in The Gunslinger, dies abruptly, and awakens to take the lead in Red Mars for the remainder of the book. The tales are so disjointed I wonder why Lem fused them together like two unrelated slivers of soap in the shower.

But I can deal with the narrative more than I can deal with the surprisingly male-only culture Lem (again, kind of lazily) describes. The novel doesn't even come close to passing the Bechdel Test: not only do the female characters not talk about a subject that isn't a man, and not only are there few named female characters, there aren't actually any female characters at all. None.

Let's put that in context. The second two thirds of this book take place on a ship filled with experts of every subject area you can imagine -- pilots, clerics, philosophers, doctors, physicists, chemists. I'm not sure if the population is specified, but let's be conservative and say there are dozens of people on a mission to the distant world of Quinta. None are female. At least, none that Lem bothers to introduce. This strikes me as very weird, and I've read plenty of dawn-of-the-space-age Bradbury and Asimov stuff. This wasn't from the dawn of the space age: it was published in the 80s! And the ideas are more complex and well realized! And yet it's a sausage fest.
Profile Image for Karmologyclinic.
248 reviews32 followers
May 22, 2018
Although I liked this book and will give it 4 stars as a rating, there are a couple of objections that if taken into account, would drop the rating to at least 3 stars.

1. Mr. Lem was a great thinker, no doubt about that, but a lazy writer in my humble reader's opinion (at least in this book). Throughout the book events are told to us, not shown and also the pov changes sometimes from tell to show and the reverse as well, and it is not consistent. I would expect that from a rough draft or an unfinished book. Also, he infodumps, a lot.

2. He also digresses a lot. There are three digressions inside that take too much space. I understand their meaning and how they are connected to the main story and how we need to come back to them to ponder after finishing the book, but they are too big, it's like you forget you read the same book. Especially the first one, you get told a story for many pages about a person then this ends abruptly and we fast forward to the future where only some parts of the story are relevant to the meaning. And I kept waiting for the story to earn its place and I felt tricked when it didn't.

3. Apparently, after some centuries women don't exist, they have become genetically obsolete. No, Lem doesn't say that, I did because I had to find some theory why women are not present in this book (not even mentioned), to stop being so annoyed by the fact, while reading. Suppose I do the opposite, I give you a book where there are no males. You'll find it strange and start wondering why. And this is not even a case where women are in unimportant roles or just decorative (I'm used to this in old books and especially old scifi),here there are no women, period. There is only one woman that appears in a decorative role in a memory simulator (past) and in a dream (also past). Oh, and one mentioned in a derogatory way in an argument. So, my theory stands. Or I develop another theory, not very flattering about Mr.Lem. *PS And don't argue that he was interested in the ideas and not the characters, because he took his time to put males of various nationalities with distinct names, in the spaceship.

But, the thinking, the philosophy is great. The writing, in my opinion, not so much. I need both. You choose.
Profile Image for Erik Erickson.
147 reviews7 followers
January 26, 2015
Philosophical. Hard. Interminable.

The premise is fascinating and unique: what if we finally make contact with aliens but they have zero interest in meeting or even communicating with us?

Unfortunately we have to endure every discussion involved in answering that question, including all of the details of the future history required to understand it, and in painstaking detail, over the course of however long it takes to finally reach the other intelligent beings in another galaxy.

At times it is amazing how thorough the author is in his conception of all details but it's just way too much. Plus the things the crew is able to deduce with almost no first-hand info is too incredible, “logic” computers or not. The fact that the alien's world just happens to reflect a more extreme version of eighties global politics also dates the whole thing too much.

But the interesting parts, especially those where things actually happen besides conversation or inner monologues, are riveting. There's just too much of the other stuff.

I'm glad to have finally read some Lem but I am disappointed in how rambling it is, and how much it reflects a specific point in time. I may try to read Solaris since it's one of my favorite movies (Tarkovsky's version) but otherwise I don't have much interest in enduring his other works any time soon.
Profile Image for Anna.
1,691 reviews638 followers
December 19, 2016
I have to admit, the sole reason I took this novel off the shelf was love for the word ‘fiasco’. (There’s something so satisfying about it!) It then joined my library book pile because I know Stanislaw Lem to be an author of high quality science fiction weirdness (cf Memoirs Found in a Bathtub). On the back cover, a puff quote describes ‘Fiasco’ as ‘Brilliant and challenging’. Although my reflex was to scoff at the latter term, I am now inclined to agree with it. This is a dense, complicated book that isn't particularly easy to read. Lem spends a great deal of time on the technical aspects of the interstellar space travel scenario that is being recounted, including a lot about collapsars that I didn’t really understand. The plot is essentially concerned with first contact between humans and aliens. The first half sets this up, the second plays it out. I found the former hard work and the latter extremely compelling. Unless I’m missing something, the first fifty pages were wholly unnecessary.

By contrast, the second half included some extraordinary and fascinating conversations on AI, game theory, and political philosophy. Lem advances many thought-provoking ideas, which by turns I both disagreed with (‘...technology, once it gained momentum, became a variable independent of the civilisational substructure’) and agreed with (‘...if technologies for saving or replacing the biosphere did not come to the rescue of technologies of expansion, the given civilisation would enter a crisis to end all crises, ie extinction’). The progression of events once the mission arrives in the alien solar system is inexorable and brilliantly handled. It forms a pretty spectacular critique of the Cold War, unsurprising given the publication date of 1986. Nonetheless, I can only award three stars as it takes quite a lot of patience to reach the excellent chapters. I think the level of technobabble was somewhat excessive, even for a story set largely in space. The title is extremely apposite, though.
Profile Image for Damian Murphy.
Author 37 books162 followers
June 23, 2009
This is a tough one, even for Lem fans. Stick with it though, the long, dense build up in the beginning pays off.
Like many of Lem's other works, this book documents the complete lack of cultural reference points, and thus any basis for communication whatsoever, between human and alien intelligence. In this case, repeated mis-communication leads to the worst of all possible outcomes. A fiasco indeed.
The book contains some very interesting musings concerning human conceptions of alien life and the attempt to map out the possibilities along which an alien civilization might evolve. Lem compellingly explores the limits to which the human mind can understand something completely different than itself or the environment that shaped it. Highly recommended.
Author 14 books10 followers
June 26, 2017
No suelo releer libros, pero volverme a encontrar con Fiasco ha sido a la vez una "decepción" y una agradable sorpresa. Quizá porque la primera lectura fue en mitad de la carrera de Física, no recordaba tanto espacio dedicado al hard duro, lleno de colápsares y miles de teorías sobre el viaje más rápido que la luz que por momentos se convierten en un muro de palabras casi imposible de escalar (de hecho recordaba la narración inicial algo más corta y algo más espectacular). Pero al tiempo, creo que no era consciente de cómo esa misma pega cuadra perfectamente con lo que es Fiasco: una novela dedicada a las cosas que a veces son imposibles de comprender.
Porque más allá de sus especulaciones con la paradoja de Fermi y por qué ese universo tan grande parece tan solitario, tengo la impresión de que Fiasco habla justo de la incomunicación. No solo entre especies, quizá a un nivel más profundo. Si algo se saca en claro de la lectura de Fiasco es que el hombre (y aquí hay que hablar del hombre, no hay ni un solo personaje femenino en la novela) solo puede recurrir a la competición y a la guerra porque no consigue nunca imaginar las motivaciones del Otro. O al menos con eso me quedo yo. Porque lo bueno de Fiasco es que esos libros de CF que entienden lo de "literatura de ideas" en el más profundo de los sentidos. Los que te ponen frente al espejo de la humanidad y te dicen que esto es lo que hay, nada de aventuras espaciales, nada de Elegidos, solo un universo casi vacíos en el que ni siquiera llegamos a minúsculos granos de arena y en el que nunca sabremos comprender a los granos de arena de al lado.
Profile Image for Luka Antonić.
19 reviews9 followers
August 31, 2011
It seems that cultural difference between human and alien civilization is one of the major themes of Lem's books, judging by previously read novel The Invincible and Tarkovsky's adaptation of Solaris.

I must admit that this is the very first science fiction work which I found boring. Introduction is unnecessarily too long, as well as the whole book. Going into every single detail, Lem's writing style in Fiasco is closed to be called "tolstoyesque", apart from the fact that he is far from being Tolstoy of science fiction. In all those explanations and analysis, main plot somehow gets lost.

But, thing that was most annoying to me is how the moral of the crew was represented. I can't think of a group of serious scientists and perfectly objective computer called DEUS fucking up the whole alien civilization, because they don't want or they're simply unable to make contact with them. Earth's history is full of the wars and sick psychopaths, but I don't think they will be the one who would be chosen for such project. Was author's intention to show the true nature of people, or did he characterized these killers as normal individuals unintentionally?

Scientific part of the book was, good. Maybe even too good. Lem described technology very thoroughly.

Nemo me impune lacessit - No one attacks me with impunity ???
373 reviews6 followers
November 4, 2013
Philosophical, intellectual SF which is alternately amusing, tragic, exasperating and frightening. I love First Contact stories, and I think this one will stick in my head for awhile. The conceit of making Contact with a planet which just doesn't want to is explored brilliantly.

The book does take too long to get to the CETI mission, and the opening is dreary reading which is incidental to the major plot, though has thematic resonance with the ending that I can appreciate. Everything really picks up once the Hermes arrives at Quinta. The language is simple (or is that the translation?) but the speculations are electric. It was really clever how the plot was structured unlike so many books about failed expeditions, as the machines work to specification and the humans behave rationally (to a fault, almost) and the mission still becomes, well, a Fiasco. Failure upon failure upon failure. A great antidote to American-style optimism, it feels like a book from Cold War Eastern Europe.

The "Show of Strength" and the ending are particularly haunting. Many parallels to Blindsight. The techno-babble is a little excessive, and certainly the worst part. A lot to appreciate, despite its shortcomings. Squeaks in at a low 4.

I will definitely be reading more Lem, especially his other "Contact" novels.
Profile Image for Denis.
Author 1 book19 followers
April 19, 2018
Unfortunately "Fiasco" was over written. This was LEM's final book of fiction I believe (1986). Admittedly, long scifi novels were the trend during the 80's and there is a great story in there, but it is buried under many long technical info dumping. It was like reading a series of Cosmos episodes on PBS. Some might like this more than others, I personally don't mind too much, unless of course, there is far too much of it. And this was that. I felt it harmed the pace; made it difficult to follow the narrative. However I can't fault it for any other reason than that. It was intelligent, original, clever and mysterious. This was a serious LEM work. It deserved an Athur C. Clarke Award nomination, though I preferred the tighter more humorous stories I read just before this one.
Profile Image for Miglė.
100 reviews48 followers
May 11, 2018
Man patinka S. Lem. Jo kūryba nėra paviršutiniška, o jo fantastika nėra tik tuščias fantazavimas dėl pramogos. Pasitelkęs įsivaizduojamus pasaulius, kurie, beje, neatrodo neįmanomi ar pernelyg fantastiški, jis sukuria sudėtingas sąlygas, kuriose nagrinėja žmogų ir jo psichiką, moralę, prigimtį. Man patinka, kai tokie aspektai nagrinėjami remiantis kitokiomis, neįprastomis perspektyvomis, nes taip atveriamos platesnės galimybės analizuoti galimus žmogaus mąstymo niuansus, jo pažini(u)mo galimybes bei ribas. Ir Lemas tai daro įtikinamai ir, - kaip man tai patinka, - filosofiškai.

Kalbant konkrečiai apie "Žlugimą", jis man ir patiko, ir nelabai. Pradžioje skaitydama ilgus svetimos planetos (tiksliau, palydovo) aprašymus nors ir kaifavau, nes tikrai buvo geras užtaisas vaizduotei, mažiausiai tris kartus vos neužmigau, kadangi tai tęsėsi gerus keliasdešimt puslapių. Vis dėlto tikrai nė nepamąsčiau mesti knygos. Man buvo įdomu. Vėliau, įpusėjus, o juo arčiau pabaigos, juo labiau man trūko visą kūrinį vienijančio vientisumo. Viskas tarsi ir susiję, tačiau kai kurie epizodai rodėsi įterpti be priežasties (pavyzdžiui, gan ilga ištrauka iš veikėjo skaitomos knygos); kai kada kiek per smulkmeniškai pasirodė leidžiamasi į detalius technikos aprašymus, kai kada šiek tiek vargino fizikiniai aiškinimai, nors šie turbūt būtų buvę įdomūs, jei tik labiau draugaučiau su fizika. Daugiausiai klausimų kėlė iki galo taip ir nepaaiškėjusi priežastis tiek daug dėmesio skirti nutikimui Titane, taip detaliai jį aprašyti, nors vėliau vienintelis iš to išlikęs dalykas tebuvo pats veikėjas, bet ir tas - praradęs atmintį, tad sąsajos su Titano įvykiais nelikę. Žodžiu, kai kada kilo klausimai, kam reikėjo to ar kito epizodo. Beje, kartais erzino kvaili veikėjų veiksmai ar sprendimai. Pavyzdžiui, nuvykus žmonėms užmegzti kontakto, tačiau kvintiečiams neatsakius, nusprendžiama parodyti jėgą - ok, taip galvojantis dundukas komandoje greičiausiai iš tiesų atsirastų, bet, Lemai, kad beveik visi komandoje taip galvotų, o tie, kurie ir nesutinka, veik neprieštarauja? Va tas tai manęs neįtikino. Ir kabinčiausi prie pabaigos. Perskaičiau paskutinį sakinį ir pasijutau it šlapiu skudurėliu trinktelėta. Lyg ir galiu suprasti, kodėl pabaiga tokia, bet... Šiek tiek nusivyliau. Tačiau pati knygos koncepcija man patiko, ir nors skaityti nebuvo labai lengva (dėl ilgų, puslapiais besitęsiančių aprašymų ar teorijų), knyga visąlaik sukosi galvoje, o tai reiškia, kad buvo įdomu ir kabino, ir buvo gerai.
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