Monday, April 14, 2008

The Adventures of Pirx the Pilot

Stanislaw Lem is a brilliant author. This is the first book of stories about pilot (or cadet, in the first story) Pirx of the space service.
We open with Pirx as a cadet, learning to fly the atomic rocket. This is almost identical to the rockets described by Charles Stross in his current science fiction stories, which is rather telling in terms of the perception of atomic fission as the source of energy for rockets in space. But I digress.
Pirx is worried about his performance, and comparing himself to the best and brightest in his class. I know that I did that through highschool and college as well. But when Pirx emerges from the simulator that he thought was a real training flight he finds that his overthinking of things has led him to land while the bright boy crashed his simulator into the moor.
Pirx is an everyman of a character who thinks too much, and analyzes too much. He is worried that his name will impact his ability to get a date. "I'm Pirx" doesn't really roll off the tongue but I'm sure it wouldn't really stop some one from dating him. He spends much of the stories thinking things through, which I greatly enjoyed.

The short stories are all about novella length, so set some time aside for reading them. You will find that you are finishing the story about the time you also realize it's past bed time. Lem is most known for Solaris, but I find most of his works to be incredibly readable and enjoyable.

In "Pirx the Pilot" we spend much of the time alone with Pirx in space, learning about the rockets and seeing what life in the military of the far future is like. Unfortunately it seems about as dull as todays duty watching Arctic Ice for an invasion, or flying patrol over the Pacific. The moments of excitement reflect much of what life is like now and probably will be in the future for humans, with machine error, human error, and mistaken identity playing their role in making everyone jump.

This is a must read for fans who want to know where modern sci-fi comes from.