Stranger in a familiar land, September 12, 2004
Reviewer: B Brown (Portland, OR)
Hal Bregg returns to Earth after a journey that spanned 10 of his years and 100 years at home to find a world unrecognizable from the one he left. He and his crew embodied the loftiest aspirations of a society willing to take risks, even fatal ones, in the pursuit of exploration, discovery, and advancement. Sound familiar? But society in the intervening century now has expunged all possibility of risk. To achieve this, humanity accepts a narcotized solution in the form of betrization--a socially engineered necessity. Hal, full of passion and vigor, is thus a living anachronism and unsure how he will fit in.
With this scenario that seemingly could go anywhere Lem would like, it oddly becomes something of a romance. Please though don't surmise that this a standard love story. The book contains the classic Lemmian effulgence of realities that presciently evoke some of our own: reals (simulated encounters with danger); betrization (aforementioned); an enslaved workforce of robots; electronic books; etc. Without revealing more, the ending confirms Lem's place among the pantheon of superb literary artists.