cover image His Master’s Voice

His Master’s Voice

Stanisław Lem, trans. from the Polish by Michael Kandel. MIT, $17.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-0-262-53845-9

This deeply philosophical first contact tale, originally published in 1967, showcases the brilliant, often prescient mind of the late Lem (1921–2006). Humanity’s struggle to interpret what may or may not be a message from extraterrestrial intelligence is recounted in the manuscripts of professor Peter Hogarth, “discovered” by Lem after Hogarth’s death. Hogarth introduces himself in a disarmingly self-deprecating preface as a scientist whose fundamental character traits are “cowardice, malice, and pride,” easing readers into the cerebral tale of a series of chance events which lead a group of scientists to detect a message embedded in recordings of neutrino emissions from “certain selected patches of the sky.” Though little action animates the story, the complexities of the subsequent debate around how best to understand the alien communication—which may be billions of years old—are thought-provoking and entirely plausible. This thorough, intellectual take on a classic hard sci-fi trope is Lem at his best. (Feb.)