Return from the Stars
An astronaut returns to Earth after a ten-year mission and finds a society that he barely recognizes.
Stanisław Lem's Return from the Stars recounts the experiences of Hal Bregg, an astronaut who returns from an exploratory mission that lasted ten years—although because of time dilation, 127 years have passed on Earth. Bregg finds a society that he hardly recognizes, in which danger has been eradicated. Children are “betrizated” to remove all aggression and violence—a process that also removes all impulse to take risks and explore. The people of Earth view Bregg and his crew as “resuscitated Neanderthals,” and pressure them to undergo betrization. Bregg has serious difficulty in navigating the new social mores.
While Lem's depiction of a risk-free society is bleak, he does not portray Bregg and his fellow astronauts as heroes. Indeed, faced with no opposition to his aggression, Bregg behaves abominably. He is faced with a choice: leave Earth again and hope to return to a different society in several hundred years, or stay on Earth and learn to be content. With Return from the Stars, Lem shows the shifting boundaries between utopia and dystopia.
Paperback$17.95 T | £14.99 ISBN: 9780262538480 312 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in
“The writing is leisurely and elaborate, with a lot of gorgeous descriptive set-pieces….Atypical work from a master, but carried off with characteristic panache.”—Kirkus Reviews
Lem's thought-provoking, reissued 1961 classic explores the questionable utopia that has emerged on a vivid future Earth through the eyes of an astronaut recently returned from the Fomalhaut star system, 23 light years away.
“Philosophy to me is just another genre; religion another; in the end we only have stories. And in this realm Lem never failed me, and never failed science fiction. There was never a dull Lem book, and at their best they are superb.”
Kim Stanley Robinson