Stanislaw Lem was one of the greats of classic science fiction. This is a collection of twelve of his stories, most never before translated into English from the original Polish. These are dense stories filled with scientific jargon and will take a while to read. The best of the bunch are “The Friend” and “Darkness and Mildew.”
1. The Hunt (Late 1950s) is a story told from the point of view of something not human, something possibly mechanical in nature, who is being hunted for sport through forests and mountains. It is a poetic story, which brings to life the environment he is running through.
2. Rat in the Labyrinth (1956) is a first contact story and, as it so often goes, first contact with aliens is nothing like we ever imagined. Here, it is an episode so odd and different than almost anyone expected. This one starts out slowly, but you have to stick with it to get to the good stuff. It may indeed feel more like an endless labyrinth than a flying saucer.
3. Invasion from Aldebaran (1959) is another first contact story, but it flips the Rat in a Labyrinth story on its head by viewing the first contact from the point of view of the many-tentacled aliens. The oddness with which they understand Earth is just how odd we would find an alien world out there.
4. The Friend (1959) revisits the theme of First contact and, once again, it is nothing like you imagined. Leg starts this terrifying take slowly with a stranger visiting a shortwave radio club. But, see, the stranger has s secret friend who is quite out of this world.
5. The Invasion (1959) is a hard science look at first contact. It starts out just peaceful out in the field. A tough, awkward read. Interesting thing is how Lem anticipated three-d printing.
6. Darkness and Mildew (1959) is for a change of pace not exactly a first contact story and it’d also my favorite so far. Think Dr. Frankenstein meets Dr. Doolittle. Think deeply before you watch another episode of “Hoarders.” Lem’s quirky sense of humor is also at play here.
7. The Hammer (1959) is a tough one to follow, but it’s a real early look into the nature of artificial intelligence.
8. Lymphater’s Formula (1961) starts out as a difficult read, but ultimately is a very satisfying tale. If you thought Dr. Frankenstein appeared in an earlier story, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Evolution slowly progresses.
9. The Journal (1962) is a technically-rich story written in the form of an entry to a scientific journal. Thus, the title.
12. The Truth (1964) explores the idea of what is life and what is intelligent.
11. One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Seconds (1976)
12. An Enigma (1993) is about predictions and intelligent thought.