His Master's Voice

His Master's Voice

by Stanisław Lem

When the project reaches a stalemate, Hogarth pursues clandestine research into the classified TX Effect--another secret breakthrough.

But when he discovers, to his horror, that the TX Effect could lead to the construction of a fission bomb, Hogarth decides such knowledge must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the military.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Science Fiction
  • Rating: 4.11
  • Pages: 199
  • Publish Date: November 25th 1999 by Northwestern University Press
  • Isbn10: 0810117312
  • Isbn13: 9780810117310

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But obviously if one knows that pi can be calculated to any degree of precision required, the number in any decimal place is known with little effort. This trivial exercise summarises a fundamental problem in information theory: how does one know that apparently random noise isnt really a communicative signal? The sequence above, for example, could be analysed endlessly and yet no pattern, no meaning would emerge from its very real randomness. Put another way, meaning depends on a receptivity to communication, which means a high tolerance for listening to nonsensical noise in order to find the signal buried within. Lem doesnt solve the paradox of meaning of course; he merely documents it in a particularly interesting way.

The book raises several intriguing possibilities about the nature of the message and its content, but ultimately (and I like this part) the mystery remains unresolved.

If you're the kind of person who seeks out authors based on George Clooney's starring film choices, you're going to be in for a bit of a surprise, because this novel makes that one look like "The Fast and the Furious" from an action perspective. He's a writer of sharp satire and criticism, and you can somewhat get the sense from several of his novels that a) he didn't think much of what was commonly accepted as SF "tropes" and b) he wished more people were doing what he did instead of writing stories where bare chested heroes wrestled with bug eyed aliens on completely illogical worlds. As it turns out, the signal is neither of those things but the scientists aren't exactly sure what the heck it is and thus spend the entire book debating theories that say more about themselves than it does about the signal in question (dubbed "His Master's Voice" because somebody has a sense of humor) without ever actually figuring out what the signal means or if it's even really a signal sent out by aliens and they're just spending all this time attempting to decode a star burp as something intelligent. Noting that they don't figure it out isn't really a spoiler since it's pretty much the culmination of every Lem novel that deals with aliens (plus it's noted in the first chapter) but what Lem does here is turn the book into an almost extremely meditative essay on the nature of science and its theories as well as the relationship between science and the outside world as well as the sometimes unwelcome influence of the military. This approach to the novel means that its just nothing for first person recollections and musings for two hundred or so pages, subtracting all those pesky things like action and even dialogue for the most part .

His Master's Voice is the story of a brilliant mathematician, working on a Manhatten Project-like in an attempt to decipher a signal from space.

Jako zrelo delo.

Inevitably the focus of the military sponsored project turns to see whether this alien tech can be weaponised. The ideas were fascinating, but I couldn't give it 5 stars since it reads as a digest of ratiocination about scientific observation and objectiveness (undermined by quantum mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle).

Lem's brilliant ability to misdirect the reader toward an ultimately unachievable goal of understanding is present and accounted for in His Master's Voice. The vast majority of His Master's Voice is taken up by characters debating or explaining ideas. While Lem's work often includes a great deal of exposition, the amount in His Master's Voice is a little overwhelming. It didn't take long for His Master's Voice to soar blissfully over my head in descriptions of neutrinos and particle physics, and whenever readers get lost trying to understand the actual science behind hard science fiction, it makes the fictional science harder to spot.

American government establishes a secretive project, dubbed "His Master's Voice", aimed at deciphering the "message from the stars". Of course, their argument is that the other side (the novel was written in the times when there were just two superpowers - the U.S. and the Soviet Union) is probably also working to decipher the message and convert its contents into a super-weapon. I am sort of a mathematician, albeit not a very good one, no wonder then that I totally love Mr. Lem's presentation of differences between mathematics and social sciences - I was laughing for an entire day having read how Dr. Hogarth's results were not recognized by social scientists working on the project because his "style of thinking ... Written in pre-Internet times, "His Master's Voice" reads like an absolutely contemporary novel; it could have been written last year. I have left what is the best for me for last - "His Master's Voice" does not read like fiction. It makes the reader feel this is a chronicle of actual events, something like the story of Manhattan Project from the 1940s or any other big-scale scientific project.

Stanisaw Lem (staiswaf lm) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer of Jewish descent. In this work, Lem discusses philosophical implications of technologies that were completely in the realm of science fiction then, but are gaining importance todaylike, for instance, virtual reality and nanotechnology. Over the next few decades, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological, although from the 1980s onwards he tended to concentrate on philosophical texts and essays.