His Master’s Voice by Stanislaw Lem

His Master's Voice

His Master’s Voice
I thought I was reading a ‘First Contact‘ science fiction novel but it’s not. Unfortunately, it reads as the diary of a frustrated mathematician, who is stuck on a secret government ‘Manhattan Project‘ in the middle of the desert with fellow scientists, whom he has issues with both professionally and personally. He rants about many topics and spends few words on the message (HMV), which may or may not be from space aliens. I was expecting more, I found it rather dull. There are some interesting ideas but they aren’t developed as action pieces, instead the main character just rambles on in his diary about them in a dense philosophical manner. I can’t even say it’s a allegory for the police state Lem lived in at the time (Poland).

199 pages

My Kindle Notes From The Book

The notion that we have within us an ancient Beast that carries upon its back a modern Reason–is a pastiche of primitive mythologies. – location 56-57

It turns out, however, that freedom of expression sometimes presents a greater threat to an idea, because forbidden thoughts may circulate in secret, but what can be done when an important fact is lost in a flood of impostors, and the voice of truth becomes drowned out in an ungodly din? When that voice, though freely resounding, cannot be heard, because the technologies of information have led to a situation in which one can receive best the message of him who shouts the loudest, even when the most falsely? – location 357-60

Evolution “chose” such a solution because it operates statistically: what matters to it is the survival of the species, and not the defective states, the ills, the sufferings of separate individuals. Evolution is, as an engineer, an opportunist, not a perfectionist. – location 375-76

A professional colleague to whom I showed my preface remarked that I had painted myself black in order to be able afterward to give free rein to my outspokenness, on the principle that those whom I took to task could not easily hold it against me if first I did such honors for myself. – location 447-49

the relationship between myself and my theme, to the theme itself (i.e., to the relationship between the scientists and His Master’s Voice), – location 509-10

The beginning went: “0001101010001111100110111111001010010100.” – location 1319-20

ambiguous: to which master are we to listen, the one from the stars or the one in Washington? The truth is, this is Operation Squeeze–the squeeze being not on our poor brains but on the cosmic message, and God help the powerful and their servants if it succeeds.” – location 1838-39

A civilization could take either path: storming the Cosmos or cutting itself off from it. – location 2786

And yet we knew, for a certainty, that when the first emissaries of Earth went walking among the planets, Earth’s other sons would be dreaming not about such expeditions but about a piece of bread. – location 2799-2801

The One who sent out the letter was motivated by a purpose that was definitely not indifferent to life. – location 3051-52

that what we had received was the description of some instrument–and it is well known what use we put instruments to. Even man is a tool for man. – location 3053-54

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