SciFi Discussion – The Cyberiad

On the 21st June Manchester Science Fiction book club met at Madlab to discuss the The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem. Our advocate for this scifi masterpiece was Naomi Jacobs.

The Cyberiad is a collection of short stories featuring two renowned Constructors, Trurl and Klapaucius, and the machines that they build. “The stories focus on problems of the individual and society, as well as on the vain search for human happiness through technological means.”

Did We Like The Cyberiad?

The majority of us did like The Cyberiad, although it was not unanimous.

We liked its whimsical manor, the use of language, the interesting concepts and the way it rolls from humans to robots and vice versa. It is superficial, silly even, but with deep ideas.

On the downside, it seems to be a book of fairy tales without a moral. The end was pointless and the stories taken on their own fell flat. It was unclear whether there was a deeper meaning to them.

Translation of The Cyberiad

Originally written in Polish, the translation was done by Michael Kandel. We wondered how close the translation was to the original, is The Cyberiad so poetic in Polish? The translation is amazing and very clever but how much of it is interpretation as opposed to translation? Anyone who can read Polish and English please leave a comment!

Fables For The Cybernetic Age

Our favourite stories were:

  • Altruizine, about the HPLD’s (the Highest Possible Level of Development) of civilisation,
  • The Fifth Sally (A) or Trurl’s Prescription,
  • The Thrid Sally, or the Dragons of Probability,
  • The Seventh Sally, or how Trurl’s Own Perfection Led to No Good and
  • Prince Ferrix and the Princess Crystal.

We found the nesting of stories in the “Tale of the three storytelling machines of King Genius” a bit confusing.

Do you agree? If you haven’t read The Cyberiad why not grab yourself a copy! Don’t forget to read this month’s SciFi book first!

Was It SciFi?

Yes, we thought it was, although a better description would be that it was “SciFi Fairy Stories” and it was essential to read it bearing that in mind. Taken at face value the stories are medieval containing plenty of kings, dragons and gold, but with the addition of many strange and wonderful machines. The science wasn’t really credible, it was more philosophical.

Trurl or Klapaucius

What did we think of the characterisation? We didn’t dwell on this topic except for asking who was our favourite constructor, Trurl or Klapaucius? We thought that Klapaucius had a raw deal, sorting out Trurl’s messes. On the other hand, no-one was envious of the shellacking that Trurl received!

Other Comments

We noticed that the illustrations by Daniel Mroz didn’t necessarily match up with the stories which they were in. They did give us the impression that the robots were roughly humanoid in shape, but quite blocky with an old fashioned or retro design!

We weren’t sure at first whether the Constructors were humans or robots, however this conundrum was resolved in the final story.

The robots and machines seemed to work in a mystical way, with no description about how they worked and no sense of whether there was any truth behind any of it.

SciFi Short Stories

We have also read I Robot, by Isaac Asimov, and The Carpet Makers, by Andreas Eschbach, both of which are stand alone but interlinked short stories. It was generally agreed that this is a good format for SciFi.

What Do You Think?

If you were unable to come to the discussion its not to late to take part! Do you agree or disagree with any or all of the points raised above? Perhaps you would like to add something that was not covered? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Manchester Sci-Fi Book Club Contacts

You can contact us via Twitter @mcrsf_madlab using #mcrsf

Keep up to date with Manchester Sci-Fi book club posts at Madlab:

We also have a group on Google which we would encourage you to join.

Next Sci-Fi Book:

We’ll be meeting on 21st July 7 – 9 pm to discuss Snow Crash by Neil Stevenson.

Sci-Fi Books for following months are:

Anvil of the Stars by Greg Bear.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I’ll be posting more about this odd choice soon, so watch this space!

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