Some Good Old Classic Sci-Fi

I have to admit that when it comes to the good old classic sci-fi, I have some blind spots, and, until recently, Stanislaw Lem was one of them. When my friend heard that I had never read any of his work, he promptly sent The Cyberiad to my kindle and insisted I read it right away. I was not disappointed.

The Cyberiad is a collection of short stories, one more of a novella, that have taken our technologically rich world and pushed it to its illogical extremes. There are two inventors (apparently mostly mechanical themselves) at the heart of the stories who are in constant, mostly friendly, competition in building robots and thinking machines and all sorts of devices to solve the problems of rulers and worlds.

Now, while the stories themselves are engaging, it is the sardonic and caustic attitude of the telling that makes them such a treat. Not to mention the illustrations by Daniel Mróz. I guarantee you’ll be laughing your ass off while still not getting all the jokes. Well, maybe my father would, but he’s a physicist, and these jokes are of the same caliber as the highest brow XKCD mathematical puns.

At the same time though, these stories really make you stop and think about what we are using our technology for today, whether we’re genuinely putting our knowledge and skills towards the best efforts or are we really just concerned with making better masturbatory machines. Literally, I’m not joking, there’s at least two stories involving machines like this, one meant to break a prince of his inappropriate infatuation and the other to so engage a ruler so as to prevent him from noticing that it was trying to kill him. And then there is the story about the two inventors creating a machine that writes poetry and how out of hand that gets as poets come from around the world to duel with it.

I highly suggest picking this up to read at least one or two of the stories in it. It took me a little while to get through because its hard to read more than one of the stories at once, the complex and convoluted language tends to leave your brain spinning just a bit, but its totally worth the verbal vertigo.