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Reviews of Cyberiad, the (1965)

Review by ropie (2007-01-29)
Stanislaw Lem is, if not my favourite writer, certainly near the top of the list. I can't say how much is lost or added in the translation but 'The Cyberiad' feels very much like the other Lem books I have read. What is different about this one though is that in place of the usual formalities and hard sterility of his scientific scenarios is a spry humour and an apposite informality both in the approach of the two scientists (the highly engaging robots, Klapaucius and Trurl) and Lem's approach to the genre of SF.

The structure of this novel is actually as a collection of short stories, though each is so similar to the other in terms of style that it could be considered a novel of distinct chapters. They are easily read either as a complex and detailed comment on many aspects of politics, science and philosophy, or as simple fairy tales of scientific endeavour; each of the stories manages to engage the mind in both ways. Klapaucius and Trurl attend to each situation with wicked cleverness but are not so smart that they manage to avoid the situations in the first place.

The settings of the stories are fascinating too. This is not just any kind of cosmos, rather it's a cosmos without any physical restrictions except those that apply to the rules of each tale. The two main characters travel around between planets as easily as walking down the street, or manage to rearrange the stars to make a gigantic cosmic advertisement for their services, for example. Lem's style makes this setting not only interesting but also completely engaging - the universe of Klapaucius and Trurl is a fantasy land of scientific adventure complete with mathematical Kings, Dragons and pots of gold.

Absolutely required reading, particularly if you are looking for an antidote to run-of-the-mill science-fiction nonsense; this is fantastic nonsense of an entirely different kind.

Review by clong (2006-02-07)
The Cyberiad is quite a change of pace from other books I have read by Stanislaw Lem. It is a lighthearted series of stories, set in a universe populated by robots, telling of the exploits of the two master "constructors" Klapaucius and Trurl, inventive and egotistical robot engineers who build fantastic machines to solve a variety of needs and challenges (although these machines frequently seem to create bigger problems than they solve).

Several of the stories are very funny, and a few a less successful. Some are quite whimsical, others have more the biting tone of a Swift satire. My favorite was the one about a machine that writes poetry on command (e.g., "Let's have a love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit"). There is lots of wordplay, strings of made up nonsensical words that play on mathemetical terms, greek mythology, whatever. This translation, by Daniel Mroz, seemed effective at capturing the playful tone of the original.

I enjoyed it quite a bit, although it may a book that is best taken in small doses, rather than one you sit down and read cover to cover.

Review by joel (2003-07-19)
The great machine-makers Trurl and Klaupacius travel the universe solving problems for cash and inventing impossible machines out of whole cloth. Lem's witty and knowledgable description constantly parodies - and educates the reader in - many of the finer points of mathematics, computer science, philosophy, and quantum physics. (Which are all really the same thing anyway.) Douglas Adams can't hold a candle to this true nerd farce. It's the perfect counterpart to _Godel, Escher, Bach_. And if Kandel's translation is not a better read than the original, I think it is probably worth learning Polish just to read this book.




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