I first came across Ijon Tichy a few months ago when I saw a couple of German television adaptations of Lem's work (see below) and I was captivated by the thought that Germans could make something as good as 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', after all, aren't Germans supposed to be serious and devoid of humour? (My tongue is in my cheek as I write).
Obviously the Germans were on to something and then my second astounding thought occured. Stanislaw Lem wrote 'Solaris', which is about as hardcore and as deep a science fiction novel as I've ever read. Obviously there was more to Lem than I'd understood, so I decided to dig deeper.
This I believe is the first book featuring Ijon Tichy, and at this stage in the stories, he is still an Earth bound character. As a guest at a 'futurological congress' being held in Costa Rica, Tichy experiences a series of ever stranger adventures as Costa Rica is plunged into a violent revolution. Due to the use of pharamcological weaponry however, Ijon is never quite sure what is real and what is not and as he struggls to make sense of what is going on around him, things simply get more and more bizarre.
I liked the book and was impressed by the translator too. Lem makes up a lot of weird and wornderful concepts, messing about with language like a child does with play-dough, and the translation must have been interesting work.
The story also demonstrates Lem's superiority as a science fiction writer, for though it is a comical story, and short too, it is nevertheless packed with interesting ideas and concepts, many of which might be the stock for far heavier tomes. As is often the case with novels from the previous generation, this is concentrated quality over the quantity and pap we are fed today.