is a sci-fi classic I'd heard of but never read. Very reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey
, the basic "plot" is that a scientist travels to a distant planet, called Solaris, which human scientists have been studying for generations. The planet is covered by an ocean that can form enormous city-like formations with incredible speed, and dissolve them just as quickly. There is also evidence that the planet responds to a human presence, and may even be intelligent in some way. All efforts to communicate with it, however, have proven futile.
The new arrival, Kelvin, finds that another scientist at the research station on Solaris committed suicide just before Kelvin's arrival. Soon he finds that recent experiments seem to have "provoked" Solaris, and everyone is having hallucinations/"visitors" manifested from their guilty memories. In Kelvin's case, this means his deceased wife, who committed suicide years ago, appears to him corporeally aboard the station.
It's an interesting and slightly creepy set-up, and there is a lot of exploration of both the sci-fi-ish aspects of Solaris and its alien formations and various theories about what it is and how it "behaves," and the human psychological element. You can read this story multiple ways, as nothing is ever really resolved. There is never any absolute proof that Solaris is, in fact, intelligent, or perhaps it is intelligent only in a way unfathomable to human-scale beings. Are the "visitors" who haunt the humans an experiment by the planet, Solaris studying them as they are studying it, or are they simply a response, some sort of inadvertently triggered natural phenomenon? Or merely hallucinations?
This being a thoughtful, speculative science fiction novel written in Polish in the early 60s, it's quite different from what you get in modern SF novels. As I said, it's quite reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke. Unfortunately, Clarke is not an author I've ever really enjoyed, and likewise, Solaris
fell a bit flat for me. It's certainly an interesting novel and I can see why Hollywood has revisited it, and if you like the kind of science fiction where the author freely indulges in worldbuilding infodumps and long philosophical passages, this should certainly be on your reading list. However, the characters are never very compelling and the plot is scant and unresolved, so if you prefer story-driven science fiction, this ain't it.
I give it 3 stars for being very intelligent and well-executed science fiction that unfortunately just wasn't a very interesting book for me.