I've written before about wishing I'd let myself love sci-fi earlier (my braces, nasal spray, and frizzy hair seemed like enough against me). While I'll always advocate for pride in whatever genres you enjoy, I'm a bit grateful that I'm not exploring some of the classics until my late twenties. I don't know if I would have seen past the rockets and time travel to the actual themes and wider questions.
Solaris is no exception. It's my favorite kind of sci-fi, the exploration of a new world in the not too distant future. Solaris has confused scientists for decades because the only "living" creature seems to be its ocean, a singular entity that is sometimes godlike, and other times more similar to a child.
The only way the ocean can communicate with its visitors is through memories. Man has dark recesses in the mind: lovers scorned, regrets that chew on the brain.
The novel's main point can be summed up in a quote by Kris, the protagonist: “Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”
It's a work that explores memory vs reality, exploration vs reflection, consciousness vs passivity. We think we're looking into a telescope but it's actually a mirror. We think we can understand things larger than ourselves, though the basics remain a mystery.
Lovely. I always have and always will treasure stories, but books like this make that love burn even brighter.