The Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem

Pol­ish sci­ence fic­tion was new to me. Stanisław Lem is great. His Cybe­ri­ad is appro­pri­ate­ly sub­ti­tled Fables for a Cyber­net­ic Age and con­cerns itself with two wily con­struc­tors, Trurl and Kla­pau­cius, who are just stu­pid enough to get into all kinds of scrapes, and just smart enough to get the best of every­one in the end.

Lem is hilar­i­ous. He puns all over the place and comes up with clever words like intel­lec­tri­cian for some­one who pro­grams robots. The machines made by Trurl and Kla­pau­cius [robots them­selves] are very old-style beings, with vac­u­um tubes, joints in need of grease, and pro­gram­ming made with punch cards. I zipped through this 300-page book in a cou­ple of days. The ease of read­ing and fun­puns like Dev­il­ry and Divers Rev­el­ry Before Reveille with Crou­tons do both Lem and his trans­la­tor great cred­it, but also shouldn’t dis­cour­age a more per­spi­ca­cious per­son­age from read­ing the book. They are, in fact, fables and the sto­ries knead ontol­ogy, moral­i­ty, log­ic and exis­ten­tial absur­di­ty into the dough. Def­i­nite­ly scrounge this up if pos­si­ble.

In oth­er book news, I sold two bags of paper­backs and a bag of VHS to Half Price Books for $40 and picked up The Pry­dain Chron­i­cles by Lloyd Alexan­der for a blast back into my past, The Three of Swords by Fritz Lieber to start my pulp col­lec­tion on Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Daniel Grotta’s biog­ra­phy on Tolkien, which I’ve not read since 7th grade, and a book called Med­i­ta­tions on Mid­dle-Earth con­tain­ing essays by con­tem­po­rary sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy writ­ers. Each book was five bucks, which only goes to show that Half Price books often doesn’t know what they’ve got in their hands. The Pry­dain Chron­i­cles and The Three of Swords should have been at least dou­ble that price.