[Stanislaw Lem] The Invincible

  • Title: The Invincible
  • Author: Stanislaw Lem (translated by Bill Johnston)
  • Published: 1973
  • Publisher: Pro Auctire Wojciech Zemek (printed 2017)
  • ISBN: 978-83-63471-54-5

Science fiction novels are the mirror of how we perceive technologies in a specific era. As we have seen in Star Trek episodes, it is always fascinating to imagine our humans (homo sapience) to encounter alien life-forms or inter-stellar mysteries.

Lem gives an entirely different point of view of how we encounter the unknown. Many science fiction books assume intelligent alien life forms somehow manage to communicate with human beings. It is based on the underlying assumption that language (communication) is the requirement of intelligence. But is it really so?

In ‘Solaris’ (also written by Lem), the most well-known work (maybe due to the movie adaptation) and ‘The Invincible,’ Lem shows that the communication is not so easy as it seems. Another excellent novel to deal with this theme is the ‘Roadside Picnic‘ by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.

Unlike ‘Solaris,’ which is allusive, dark, and inwardly, ‘The Invincible’ is more direct and active like an adventure story. You are on a sunny side, not in a foggy swamp. The tension of knowing what is going on kept me reading more until the end without a break.

Even though the plot seems clear, it is still one-way communication. We seem to know what the opponents are. But do we? Our understanding is always based on the current set of our ideas and experiences. Thomas Kuhn showed that this limitation of our cognitive behaviors exists even in the most objective area – science. Intentionally or not, the paradigm restricts our views (- or the paradigm narrows the scope to look at and helps us to reach a conclusion -).

It is said that we need to look at things without prejudices or preconceptions. I am very doubtful that it is even possible. Somehow we are trapped (or depending) on the symbolic web that we have constructed. That’s the reason why we accept mutual communication is natural and can be available at any rate.

In ‘The Invincible’, we are asked to think over the two big issues:
– How to understand the unknown
– How evolution might work

I highly recommend reading Lem’s ‘The Invincible’ and ‘Solaris’ together. They are quite different feasts and will give you a chance to rethink how we understand the things outside of you.

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