Sunday, September 09, 2012

His Master's Voice

I recently finished reading Stanislaw Lem's His Master's Voice.  It was the second of Lem's works I've read in the past couple of months.  While it might seem I'm on a bit of a Lem kick at the moment, it isn't really that.  It just sort of happened that these two books came up at the same time (or in relatively close proximity) in my reading.  They've actually both been on my to-be-read list for a while.

I really enjoyed His Master's Voice.  It's a different sort of work than The Cyberiad, which I'd read a month or two earlier.  It is a very thought-provoking novel — perhaps more thought-provoking than traditional novel, come to think of it.  The thoughts it offers on the spectacular failure of the (fictionalized) SETI research presented in the book are amazing.  It really made me ponder about the possible weaknesses in our real-world research in this area, particularly in regard to the control political and business interests have in the endeavor.  Even more, it made me think about what is missing in the whole field — something of a human touch, if I can put it that way.  For some odd reason (perhaps more convoluted thinking than I want to go into at the moment), Martin Buber's thoughts on the I/Thou relationship kept coming to mind as I read the book.

A more obvious connection, however, lies in Gregory Benford's The Martian Race, a book I read several years ago.  The ideas presented in both books about how we might interact with an alien race that does not synch up nicely with our expectations of what extraterrestrial intelligence should look and act like create a nice dialogue.  It might be worth reading these two books as companion stories, as they seem to me to be works that comment nicely on one another.

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