The book contains reviews of 16 imaginary books and one real book: itself. A Perfect Vacuum: review of the book itself, by the author himself. Les Robinsonades: A Robinsonade wherein the marooned sailor copes with his solitude by attempting to create an orderly world purely within his imagination - a task doomed to failure. Lem spends his review doing the same sort of dissection of this fictional novel, word by word, phoneme by phoneme, that critics have been doing to Joyce for years. The Sexplosion: a novel concerned with the extinction of the sex drive. He did not come.

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In turn, the reviewing of books is a servitude still less noble. Of the writer one can at least say that he has enslaved himself — by the theme selected. The critic is in a worse position: as the convict is chained to his wheelbarrow, so the reviewer is chained to the work reviewed.

My 18th Sisyphean illusion… My maturation as a hardened captive… I feel ecstatically enthralled to finally be able to transform myself into a genuine thrall by subduing to this very bondage, this utterly flabbergasting pillory whose adjective-defying profundity and supreme dominance has become a milestone in showing the possibility of freedom more boundless and carefree than conditions found inside a literal perfect vacuum. The possibility of freedom which sets all prisoners of letters loose through immobilization outside of time.

Come along… You know me. However, it may be that for the first time I will experience flaying-like pangs of conscience about such a deliberate omission. For during his lifetime spanning 84 years have I just contradicted myself? To alleviate the unknown tormenting sensation of renouncing my own possibility to introduce him via more down-to-earth, substantial exposure, I am going to resort to the following hypothetical situation.

Why such an indelible distinction? Does it really deserve to be put on a pedestal of immortalization? How much longer could one possibly count these elusive allusions anyway…]. Everything then ascends to the area of sui generis, the pinnacle of literary beast mode which harbors the Holy Quaternity of impetuous speculation, refined philosophy, absolute delight and exceptional profundity Die Kultur als Fehler, De Impossibilitate Vitae and The Impossibilitate Prognoscendi, Non Serviam, The New Cosmogony — not so respectively this time.

Or perhaps I will not. Instead, I am going to tell you that it is of the utmost importance that you should be kidnapped by Lem with Michael Kandel — his masterly translator — as an accomplice at some point in your life. What for? From the very first review — curiously, of A Perfect Vacuum itself — Polish author executes a remarkably time-consuming taken very literally here set of literary gambits and you cannot help but fall for them all.

You simply cannot resist their sheer ontological insubordination! Thank Lem there is more. But where does it lead to? You would have to see for yourself. My almost mature back hurts like hell from heaving these burdensome balls and chains… Anyway, if you plan to burrow yourself in a cushy nook of your room or lie prone on some forgotten meadow not everywhere February means snow! Allow his unmistakable charm to leave a permanent imprint on your letter-seeking eyes. I would say relentless curiosity.

Before you snap back at this truly void word and patronizing ellipsis, imagine Sam B. Try again. Fail again. Shame on them! Lucky for us! Amonne Purity.


A Perfect Vacuum

If dry academic humor is not your thing, you probably already know from reading descriptions that you should not read this book, so I can address fellow aficionados. Still, that leaves half the volume as successes, interesting and amusing. One has to wonder what Lem would have made of FanFiction. There are its great competitors, Hedonica and the Truelife Corporation. This is a theory of the Great Silence which is far from idiotic and quite interesting as a hard SF premise. I was introduced to Lem through the Special Collections librarrian at UWM, as a means to formulate imaginary works which is the cornerstone of my thesis.







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