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His Master's Voice [Paperback]

Stanislaw Lem , Michael Kandel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 25 1999
Originally published in 1968, His Master's Voice is a transitional work between Stanislaw Lem's more or less straightforward science fiction of the earlier years and the searching, difficult, and frequently experimental works of later decades. The novel takes the form of a posthumously published diary by an eminent mathematician, Peter Hogarth, a key participant in the His Master's Voice project, a blunt analogy to the Manhattan Project. Twenty-five hundred elite scientists have been herded into an abandoned nuclear testing site in Nevada, where, surveilled by the Pentagon, they work in secret to decipher a neutrino message of extraterrestrial origin.The neutrino message is the philosophical catalyst behind this extraordinarily deep and tragic novel in which Leto takes to task the military takeover of scientific research, Cold War -- era politics, and humanity's perpetual capacity for (self-)destruction. His Master's Voice is a mordant satire on scientific micro-worlds and the monstrous political and military system bankrolling them.

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About the Author

Stanislaw Lem is the most widely translated and best known science fiction author writing outside of the English language. Winner of the Kafka Prize, he is a contributor to many magazines, including the New Yorker, and he is the author of numerous works, including Solaris.

Michael Kandel (born 1941) is an American translator and author of science fiction. He received a doctorate in Slavistics from Indiana University, and is an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel is also a part-time editor at Harcourt, editing (among others) Ursula K. Le Guin's work [1].

Kandel is perhaps best known for his translations of the works of Stanisław Lem from Polish to English. Recently he has also been translating works of other Polish science fiction authors, such as Jacek Dukaj, Marek Huberath and Andrzej Sapkowski. The quality of his translations is considered to be excellent and is especially notable in the case of Lem's writing, which makes heavy use of wordplay and other difficult-to-translate devices. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an incredibly intelligent read Feb. 20 2003
Wow. HIS MASTER'S VOICE, as others have alluded, it's an incredibly intelligent read. Thick in it's diction, it demands your attention, to say the least. Admittedly, I had a difficult time with the first 50 pages or so, but I became completely engrossed by the halfway point.
Told in essentially diary format, HMV tells the story of one scientist's involvement in a secret goverment project established to decipher what appears to be a message from possibly superior, intelligent life. While most scientists spiral their theories into the fantastic, ours manages to poke sensible holes in each assertion...unfortunately escalating the Project's sense of hopelessness and ineptitude along the way.
Somehow, the scientists manage to produce possibly random effects from the recorded signal, but what does it all mean in the grander scheme? It's a wonderful moment when the main character finallly establishes his own theory of the signal, the effect, and his own short-comings.
I loved it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars His Master's Voice Indeed June 17 2001
Not for nothing did Lem named this book, and the Project, HMV. The helplesness of the greatest Human minds against an uhuman message is not at all different from the helplesness of the dog in the face of the gramophone.
A word of causion, though. Altough Lem is depicted as a "Science Fiction" author, _HMV_ is not your regular "Arthur C. Clark"-like book. Dont expect racing starships or multi-handed aliens; it's a book about mankind, and it's failures, and is even more novel then Asimov's _I, Robot_, or Lem's own _Solaris_.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pushesing the boundaries of the imaginable May 16 2003
This book is a confrontations of our limitations, a powerful reminder of cosmic magnitudes. I notice that facets of this book tie into another brilliant work, Fiasco, also by Lem.
The book warns that people expecting action should put the book down. I frankly don't know what he was talking about, I found my palms sweating, I found myself bursting into laughter - this is an exciting book for those willing to engage themselves intellectually.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Proceed with Caution Nov. 25 2002
By A Customer
HMV is a very heavy read. Not in its weight but in its content.
This story reads more like philosophy than sci-fi so I can understand if people struggle with it.
Another point is that nothing is really ever solved in HMV. Just like the scientists trying to understand the message from the stars, the reader is left with the same frustration because we are told the outcome in the first few pages of HMV; defeat.
The message that Mankind has stumbled upon is an enigma so complex it would be like explaining the laws of physics to a baboon. The slight progress man does make is so subjective that it can't be considered true progress at all.
I would recommend HMV only to avid Lem fan's and to the others I would point in the direction of Fiasco, Solaris, or The Invincible.
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if it hasn't happened all ready... What James Morrow does to Theology in his books, Lem does to Science. The Emperor has no clothes...
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