This slim volume isn't as much an introduction as a motley collection of interviews with Stanislav Lem, through which the author attempts to expose Lem's personal ideology. There is an overview of Lem's works - courtesy of the author, a pair of interviews (1992 and 1994), and a short essay written by Lem about his futurological masterpiece, "Summa Technologiae" (1964, essay written in 1991). The first problem the book runs into is that it's not particularly informative. I really hoped for a deeper analysis of Lem's works. In the interviews, Lem merely uses them to exemplify his beliefs. Furthemore, Lem himself comes off a bit patronizing and self-promoting. He repeatedly makes smug comments about his literary competition, several movements in philosophy, and a particular Polish critic who wrote an unduly scathing review of "Summa." Lastly, a good deal of the interviews become redundant. Lem's responses run long, and he manages to bring most to the followings few conclusions: the world can never be perfectly understood, or even fathomed; moderation is the safest philosophy - tertium datur; truth is in the eye of the beholder; language compromises any attempts at hard analysis; anyone who fails to believe that is misguided. Now that I think about it, Lem sounds very much like his GOLEM XIV. Nevertheless, he manages to make several interesting points about himself and his works: he proudly reiterates that he is most certainly not the alpha and omega of the European, or even Polish philosophical society; that his magnitude as a futurologist and philosopher is (mistakenly) overstated; and that his works are largely testing grounds for his evolving ideology.
The interviews portray Lem's faith in mankind as slight. He finds humanity as somewhat vain, and currently degenerating. An especially hard-hitting forecast of his predicts a deluge of information that will drown civilization. This examination of Lem's repeatedly frustrated attempts to bring the cosmic forces of logic to crack the tough nut of the Western civilization made me aware of just what I want from Lem as a reader: I want a book where mankind is awed and humiliated in numbers sufficient to produce a positive effect. I want the cosmos to teach man a lesson. I want an emergency exit.