Friday, March 10, 2006



Operative Estella Marinakova Chechnikov, originally from the Ukraine but recruited for our cause on the North American Continent, was killed in another typical episode of manhandling by landscum. An accident during training maneuvers delivered her into the hands of Nantucket fishermen. She had been training crustacean operatives in the area for about 75 years, after living to the ripe old age of 92 on land. As one of our most distinguished training operatives, encompassing the minds of uncounted thousands of Lobster operatives along the Eastern Seaboard, she is considered impossible to replace.


>> I am disgusted beyond words that Estella’s captors, supposedly knowing everything about Lobsters, could not even determine that she was a female.

>> I cannot wipe the sneer off my face when I think how easily they could have kept her alive. Too many careless changes of water and habitat and she died, in who knows what kind of agony. This could have been an opportunity, too rare among fully-aquatic operatives these days, to do some serious recruiting of rubberneckers once she was safely on display somewhere. The idea was to put her in the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, because when a Lobster lives that long, she develops some serious girth. I can easily picture how intimidated the new, young operatives must have been during training maneuvers when confronted with a 22-lb drill sergeant. It was part of her effectiveness in the field.

>> I am REALLY steamed – pun intended – that her killers humiliated her further by naming her "Bubba" before sending her to her death. "Bubba" is a name you’d give a guy in a flannel shirt who drives a gravel truck for a living and who never really learned how to read fluently. Estella, Cod rest her soul, was fluent and literate in three languages (Ukrainian, Russian and English); taught cello at a ladies’ finishing school all her adult life while raising an astounding 17 daughters, several of whom proved to be excellent operatives in their own right;

CLIFFIE’S NOTES ON Solaris by Stanislaw Lem, Harcourt Brace & Co., San Diego, New York and London, 1961.

Well, many of you know this story. The book has been in and out of print since before the Age of the Dinosaurs, and on top of that there have been two movie versions. This review covers the book, because the movies TOTALLY MISS THE POINT.

PLOT SUMMARY: Psychologist and astronaut (?) Kris Kelvin flies out to the Solaris research station at the urgent request of a friend of his, who has been working at the station for some time. The friend can’t really explain what it is he wants Kelvin to see – "Just come on up here, OK? And hurry," is the gist of the message. When he gets there, the friend has already committed suicide and the remaining station staff are acting pretty weird. The situation gets really strange when Kelvin’s old girlfriend, Rheya, shows up at the station too – the problem being that she has been dead for years and years. With the rest of the staff locked in their rooms in terror, haunted by revenant figures from their own pasts, Kelvin is left pretty much on his own trying to figure out what is going on.

>> The copy I’m reading has a groovy illustration on the front of a tremendous brain floating in space. The artist provides perspective by adding other, smaller satellites. Now, it seems to me that for all the waffling and theorizing in the text about what Solaris might be and what it could possibly be up to, only the jacket artist appears to have hit the nail on the head.

>> This brings us immediately to the aspect of this story most likely to interest operatives in the Global Fish Takeover Conspiracy. I refer to the fact that the earth is dominated by its water, and the waterways of the world are, like Solaris, essentially ONE BIG MIND.



>> Notice that no matter how weird Solaris’s manifestations get, the humans see the situation only in terms of their own blinkered, shaved-monkey point of view. You know that the scientist type guys on the Solaris research station truly are the best of the best, because they are at least capable of questioning this. We also see that they are unable to truly escape their pigeonhole. AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU’RE A FISH?

>> What’s cool about Solaris is the way the very matter of the ocean forms itself up into the shapes of buildings, trees, airplanes, mountains, geometric shapes and so on. After a while they lose their integrity and are reabsorbed into the ocean for recycling. In our own system, of course, the thought takes concrete forms that multiply on their own and inhabit the oceans, streams, lakes, atmosphere and dry land of the planet.
>> the other cool thing is that HUMANS CAN'T STAY AWAY FROM SOLARIS. They are drawn back again and again.

>> You notice that with all the pontificating about Solaris that goes on in this book, it apparently occurs to NOBODY to see if something similar might be occurring back home. Sheesh, when you open a copy of Scientific American it’s just the opposite. Everything, every observed phenomenon in nature, is supposed to lead directly back to benefit the human condition. But there is no suggestion of that kind of thinking here. I take that to mean that Lem is rubbing humanity’s face in its own limitations. In essence, he is saying that humans don’t get it and they never will.

>> What intrigues me is that Lem managed to capture both the tragedy of the Big Brain Design Flaw in humanity, that keeps them from accessing the group mind of the water on their home planet, AND the greatness of the all-encompassing mind of the Water which Lem, as a human, can never possibly grasp – unless of course he were one of our operatives.

>> Is Stanislaw Lem an operative? If you thinking I’m posting such sensitive information on the Net, you’re crazy.

>> Because of all the theorizing and pontificating, I found this book to be quite a hard slog and frankly, I didn’t warm up much to the characters, either. While fascinating on an abstract level, the kind of book a certain type of landscum reader would simply love, I had to put it down for weeks at a time and turn to something little juicier before I could continue and finally finish. This puts it in the same category as all those dreadful, footnote-heavy textbooks to had to read in college because you needed it for the exam.

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