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Reviews of Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1971)

Review by ropie (2008-08-08)
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub ticked every box for me:

fantastic and intriguing plot from page one until the end; every single one of the many characters an individual and extremely well-drawn; sharp humour the likes of which would make Iain M Banks jealous; vivid scenographical images and settings expressed in succint language; a real potential for re-reading to explore the subtleties and myriad details of the plot; and all in just less than 200 pages.

The plot involves an individual lost in a gigantic office known as 'the Building' where spies, triple and quadruple agents, crooked religion, deceit and convoluted secret codes are rife. His bizarre story is both fascinating and ridiculous. The Building is actually described as an underground hermetically sealed extension of the Pentagon (to avoid a paper-destroying virus from Uranus!) that survives long after the collapse of civilized society, America and Capitalism, though we are never really sure if this is the case.

Lem is my favourite SF writer and this is the best book I have read of his so far.

Review by clong (2007-01-07)
Say what you will about Stanislaw Lem, he certainly demonstrates an amazing variety as an author; this is my sixth Lem novel, and every one of them has been completely different.

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is patently Kafkaesque. A nameless protagonist labors within a massive underground bureaucracy, trying to desperately to figure out what his Mission is, but no one will tell him. Everyone appears to be a double or triple or quadruple agent (and people theorize about higher orders of turncoats), and nothing is taken at face value.

The book does display some of Lem's whimsical humor and love of wordplay, but I suspect that there may well have been more of this than made it through the translation.

The introduction of the book provides both an intriguing setting for the novel's action (the world has been struck by an alien substance that is rapidly destroying all paper--and with it all of the knowledge which resides thereon--with disastrous consequences), and a suggestion that the excesses described in The Building are a dig at America (which frankly I found largely misguided).

As a novel I found this more interesting than entertaining; I wouldn't place it at the top of Lem's novels, but it certainly did nothing to change my opinion that he is one of the most interesting and important of recent science fiction authors.




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