Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem

The InvestigationThe Investigation by Stanisław Lem

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

December 2013

So maybe this is the book Franz Kafka could have written if he'd finished "The Trial." Then again, even the fragments of The Trial are more gripping.

I wanted to like this one. An interesting hard sci-fi premise, but one that came completely without resolution. Intentional I'm sure. But infuriating. Read it, but be ready to be a bit let down at the end.

UPDATE (November 2016): I re-read it. I thought I'd read it before, but when I got to the end, I had no recollection of it. So my review on the resolution stands. Now I've added the following:

In Star Trek the Next Generation, they call it technobabble.

And by and large, the writers didn’t write it. They left it up to the actors to come up with some pseudoscientific, star-trekky gobbledygook to maybe explain something about the ship or the aliens or the situation they were in.

That’s what I feel like I’ve just read in Stanislaw Lem’s The Investigation.

This isn’t my first foray into Lem’s writing. I heartily enjoyed Solaris, for example. But I leave The Investigation highly unsatisfied. Then again, I’ve never been much for metaphysics. And maybe since this is a science fiction novel hidden within a police procedural, I was waiting for the neat ending tied up with a bow. Not what I got. I think I know what’s going on, but I’ve got that squinty Fry look about me that maybe isn’t satisfied that I’ve got it right.

It’s Sciss (spoilers). But why? Because he’s nuts? Because he wanted to play around with the mathematics and be proved a genius? I guess so. I’m almost happier to believe the fabrication of the truck driver. Or even that resurrection is caused by cancer bringing cancer-resistant folks back to life.

I’m not sure I appreciate the metaphysical dump – separate ones by two characters, no less – in the closing pages of the novel. I needed that spread out a bit, cleverly, so I could examine it for clues. To get two dumps in a row, well, I have to admit I skimmed them. So maybe it’s my fault I didn’t enjoy the book much.

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