book-reviews

A Perfect Vacuum

by Stanislaw Lem (tr. Michael Kandel)

Rating: ★★★★

Lem helpfully provides a full review of his own book as its first chapter, saving much needless work on the part of literary reviewers. I'll just summarise that review: A Perfect Vacuum is a collection of reviews of books which don't exist, barring the first item, depending on how philosophical you want to get about it. These reviews, in circumspectly approaching a number of ideas from diverse fields of philosophy, are dazzlingly witty and thought-provoking, but at the same time the style allows Lem to distance himself from their content, so the collection is more of a blast of ideas which Lem felt were interesting but lacked either the ability or the interest to present seriously and in their full depth.

It's a literary review approach to science fiction, and personally I think it works very well. Each review is so dense with insight that you feel the need to take a break between them, and the lack of a strong continuity encourages that, but at the same time the style draws you back in. I'll definitely be looking to read more of Lem.