47 Down 5 Left (52 Books, 52 Weeks)

Set vaguely in the near future (but written in 1979), Tales of Pirx the Pilot concerns the spacefaring Pirx, who is probably as far from the astronaut archetype as is humanly possible. Constantly second-guessing himself but possessed of an alarmingly accurate intuition, a bit of a prankster, though more like a bumbler, Pirx is put through a series of weird adventures where things seem to go mysteriously wrong – from insect-infested space capsules to ancient possessed robots – but he always manages to solve the problem even if he hasn’t really got “the right stuff”.

Much of the narration takes place in Pirx’s head as he stumbles around trying to work things out, giving the book a heavy psychological bent, as is typical with Stanislaw Lem. Given an intimate view into his metacognitive musings, Pirx’s development is genuinely believable even as he is put through the most fantastic of situations, gradually revealing his evolution from an awkward, ill-prepared cadet to a relatively salty ship’s captain who could almost be considered wise.

Lem has managed a weird trick with this novel – setting a detective novel in space, led by a disarmingly human protaganist, somehow creating something that is simultaneously fantastic and mundane. I’m still unsure what Lem’s trying to say with Tales of Pirx the Pilot but I have to say it’s been a strange but oddly satisfying read.

Tales of Pirx the Pilot
(ISBN No: 0380556650) Check NLB Catalogue for item availability.

My next book will be Nosferatu in Love by Jim Shepard.

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