An ocean-shaped or a polymer-based "lifeform", while formidably uncanny, are still somewhat fathomable.
What about a radio-waves-based "lifeform"? Or a star whose plasma interactions are so complex that some form of artificial "life" emerges within it?
Lem's narrative is indeed intellectually teasing. And, yet, critical of our approaches and behaviors as a species.
Lem's work (at least Solaris) explored the intellectual inability of our species to communicate with a vastly superior intelligence. Solaris did not have any problem seeing what people were doing, thinking, signalling to it, and so on. It's just that what possible difference could it make?
Another fantastic book on the subject His Master's Voice, where a whole massive team of scientists tries to decode an interstellar signal. In the end, they didn't even prove it was a signal, and not a natural phenomenon.
Also - The Invincible. Probably the most western sci-fi styled book among his works, dealing with an interesting concept of mechanical evolution.
On the topic of self awareness vis-à-vis aliens, Peter Watts' Blindsight is a recent classic.
It might object to you dropping a lead-line into it to do so, though.
Close enough? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon%27s_Egg
IIRC in that, the communication difficulties were due to clock speeds not mindsets.
There must be a list of fictional alien races living in stars, but i couldn't find one with some quick googling.
>> But he is the only writer of European [science fiction, most of whose] books have been translated into English, and [...] kept in print in the USA. Lem's critical success in English is due mostly to the excellent translations of Michael Kandel.
Anyone know if there's an effort being put into newer translations? A quick check of when Kandel made these translations:
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (with Christine Rose, 1973),
The Cyberiad (1974),
The Futurological Congress (1974),
The Star Diaries (1976),
Mortal Engines (1977),
A Perfect Vacuum (1978),
His Master's Voice (1983),
Peace on Earth (with Elinor Ford, 1994),
Highcastle: A Remembrance (1995),
Side note - are there any open source translation initiatives? Where a book in its native tongue is collaboratively translated and seen as a living document to continually be updated with the times. (With the ability for a user to roll back and see the language of 10 years ago, etc. or by preference for specific translators.)
> Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
> She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
> Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
> Silently scheming,
> Sightlessly seeking
> Some savage, spectacular suicide.
I've found an article that compares the translation the original Polish. The translator had to change the premise of the poem and write a completely new poem:
I've just finished reading Lem's Hospital of the Transfiguration - I love that this theme of pointlessness is expressed even in his non sci-fi books, it's just absolutely stellar reading.
"The books were crystals with recorded contents. They can be read the aid of an opton, which was similar to a book but had only one page between the covers. At a touch, successive pages of the text appeared on it."
In old Polish sci-fi I really appreciated the sociological aspect of some of the books, especially these written by Janusz Zajdel (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janusz_Zajdel). Unfortunately it seems none of his work was translated to English.
In Zajdel's Limes Inferior we have a society divided into classes. The monetary system was divided into points (green, red and yellow) and being in the lowest class you would only earn green points that should cover necessities. For premium items you would need red or yellow points. There is of course a black market exchanges etc. Another interesting concept from this book were 'keys' - every one had their own andb they were used as an id and a wallet for the points (I think they would perform similar functions to mobile phones of today).
Ebert's reviews are pretty spot on.
If you like anything by PKD, or you enjoy 2001, you'll probably like Solaris.
PKD on the other hand (as mentioned in the OP) did not like Lem.
"In September 1974, the FBI received a letter [from Philip K. Dick]. The accusations in the letter were shocking – it told of a communist conspiracy aimed at the hearts and minds of America through propaganda in the subtle guise of science fiction. Major science-fiction publishers and organisations had been infiltrated, and their agents, notable figures in the genre, were abroad in the West. The orchestrator of it all was a communist committee, acting under the name... Stanisław Lem."