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  • Astounding Science fiction

    Return from the Stars

    Stanislaw Lem's novel Return from the Stars dates from 1961, the year of Solaris, and begins with precisely the same effect of mystery, of (in Darko Suvin's helpful phrase) estrangement. The plot is startlingly conventional: the hero returns from a faster-than-light journey of great hardship and danger to a world a century in his future; how will he cope? The opening chapters of this first-person narrative present the new world in a way that constantly breaks the norms of realism. You don't know where you are, as the hero doesn't; you perceive a world through it's baffled glimpses, distortions, inability to make sense. 'The girl, wearing a bright dress that was quite ordinary, which encouraged me, held a bouquet of pale pink flowers; nestling her face in them, she smiled at the boy with her eyes. At the moment I stood before them and was opening my mouth to speak, I saw that she was eating the flowers — and my voice failed me. She was calmly chewing the delicate petals.'

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