Niezwyciężony (The Invincible) (1964)
This review is based on the German translation Der Unbesiegbare by Roswitha Dietrich.
The spaceship The Invincible is sent to Regis III to investigate the disappearance of her sistership Condor there. Orbiting a dim red sun, the planet turns out to have an almost breathable atmosphere, oceanic life, and utterly barren land areas. Closer examination reveals mysterious ruins, incomprehensible artifacts of an unknown technology, fossil traces of ancient land life, and eventually turns up the wreck of the Condor. The remains of the crew offer no explanation for their death. On further exploration trips, the crew of The Invincible encounters an opponent as mysterious as horrifying: the result of millennia of evolution of self-sufficient machines, optimized to eradicate any competitor, machine or organism. The true namesake of this novel.
Niezwyciężony is a typical Lem novel, depicting the limitations of man, our inherent inability to communicate with a truly alien life form, much less to understand it. Inevitably, contact results in either mutual indifference or catastrophic destruction. This book is probably the most easily readable of Lem's novels, the one the most similar to the conventions of Anglo-American SF. It combines elements of horror and action with its more philosophical aspects and could probably be made into a nice movie without suffering undue mutilations. The science doesn't look impeccable to me, but as usual Lem makes the most from what was known and what he knew at the time.
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