Eden by Stanislaw Lem (Translated by Marc E Heine) - review by Simon Rees

Simon Rees

Probably Reads Better in Polish



André Deutsch 262pp £11.95 order from our bookshop

In order to control the world, one must first name it,’ says the Captain to the Engineer, whose name, we learn belatedly, is Henry. The other human characters whose rocket has crash-landed on the planer Eden do not have names, only titles: the Physicist, the Chemist, the Doctor and the Cyberneticist. Eden, once they have dug their way out of the rocket (lying as deeply interred as E M Forster’s Obelisk) is no paradise, but they were not expecting one, and set about exploring their neighbourhood and playing the elaborate game of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral that scientists adopt when engaged in taxonomy.

The trouble is that the boundaries between the three are blurred: huge calyxes rise into the air on trunks ‘as gray as an elephant’s hide and with a faint metallic lustre’ and then bury themselves again when someone tosses a pebble at them; strange eight-legged vegetable spiders impede their way;

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