Eden (novel)

Eden (novel)

"Eden" is a 1959 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in English in 1989 (ISBN 0-15-127580-7).


A starship crew, composed of a Captain, an Engineer, a Doctor, a Chemist, a Physicist, and a Cyberneticist (robot technician), crash lands on an alien world called Eden. After escaping their wrecked ship they set out to explore the planet, first travelling through an unsettling wilderness and coming upon an abandoned automated factory. There they find a constant cycle of materials being produced and then destroyed and recycled. Perplexed they return to their ship. At the crash site they find a local creature has entered their vessel. They name these large creatures, with small torsos retractable into their large bodies, Doublers (from "double-bodied").

The next day, setting out to find a source of water, the expedition begins to come into contact with the local civilization, and their strange, top-like vehicles. Eventually they come into conflict with a vehicle's driver, who is a doubler. Killing the pilot and fleeing in his vehicle, they return to the ship and prepare defenses. After an attack never comes, they assemble their jeep and half the team sets out to explore further, the other half remaining behind to repair the ship.

The jeep team eventually discovers structures resembling graves and hundreds of preserved skeletons, and adjacent to it, a settlement. Two expedition members exploring the settlement become caught in a stampede of Doublers, who seem totally indifferent to the presence of these aliens. One doubler however, comes to the jeep and refuses to return to the settlement, and is brought back to the ship. While the expedition explored the settlement, a large group of doubler vehicles had reconnoitered the crash site and then fled.

After some studies with their resident doubler and an expedition to gather water, the crew learns that the local civilization is planning to act against them. Shortly thereafter the area around the ship is bombarded for several hours, although no direct attempts are made to damage the vessel. Eventually a wall of glass begins to assemble from the blast craters, showing evidence of a highly advanced Doubler nanotechnology. The glass eventually assembles into a dome, an attempt to isolate the ship.

The doubler that has joined the group proves to be uncommunicative, leading some of the crew to suggest that it is retarded or has some sort of mental deficiency. The crew also begins to postulate that the "naked" doublers they have seen are the victims of genocide. Choosing to explore further the crew activates "Defender", a large tank/mech which they have managed to repair. Blasting through the glass dome they travel far to the southwest, observing from a distance, for the first time, everyday doubler life.

Returning to the ship in the night, the crew encounters a group of doublers being gassed to death, and act in self defense with their antimatter weapons, killing an indeterminate number of both "naked" and "soldier" doublers. When the defender team returns to the ship, they find that most of the glass wall has repaired itself, and blast another hole. Returning to the ship until the radioactivity dies down, the expedition plans its next move. In the middle of the meeting a dressed doubler suddenly enters, and the crew makes contact, discovering the doubler to have knowledge of astronomy.

The first contact however, is soon turned into a bitter victory, as the crew learns that this doubler has unwittingly exposed himself to radiation by entering the hole made by Defender. Informing the doubler of his impending death, both parties struggle to learn as much as they can. Through a developed computer translator, the crew and the doubler can speak to one another and begin to gain an understanding of the other's species.

An indistinct image emerges of doublers' Orwellian information-controlled civilization that is almost self regulating, with a special kind of system of government created with the use of a fictitious science Lem dubs Procrustics (which would probably be called Memetics today), a dictatorship that denies its own existence and is thus impossible to destroy, a discipline of molding groups within a society and ultimately a society as a whole to behave as designed by secretive hidden rulers, to create a hideous form of social control in which the very existence of the governing powers is denied and each individual appears to themselves to be free yet are being manipulated and controlled. One example described in the novel is the above mentioned settlement, kind of a "concentration camp" without any guards which is designed so that the prisoners stay inside apparently on their "free" will.

Although the doublers know almost nothing of nuclear science, they once conducted a massive genetic experiment to enhance the species. This attempt failed miserably, resulting in deformed doublers who, if they survive, are often driven to the fringes of society. Much like the government, the very existence of this experiment, and the factories created for it, are denied, and anyone with the knowledge of them is eliminated. The doubler explains that the information disseminated to the higher echelons of Doubler society was that humans, having being subjected to the effects of cosmic rays throughout their space jorney, were the mutant monsters that were being quarantined, but he had seen it as a once in a lifetime opportunity and chose to pursue it, the choice that the humans greatly empathize with.

Finally the crew is able to fully repair and right their ship, and choose to leave Eden. The astronomer doubler, although recovering fully from his radiation exposure, decides to stay behind, and as the star ship takes off, much to the crew's sadness, the two doublers stand by the ship's exhaust, choosing to die rather than return to their strange and oppressive society.

Interpretation and appeal

"Eden" can be read on several levels. Young science fiction fans who may be enthralled by the style of the better known "Solaris" will probably enjoy the greater sense of exploration and going places that exist in "Eden". In typical Lem fashion this book can also be read as a jab at communist and socialist systems of government. Although, since Lem was critical of both superpowers during the cold war, the system of government described in "Eden" might also be a critique of free-market democracy (similar, perhaps, to Herbert Marcuse's critique of "one-dimensional" society). Most readers of the English translation of "Eden" are dazzled by Lem's relentless depiction of an incomprehensible alien civilization, and similarities can be drawn to Lem's following work, "Solaris", although "Eden" describes a far more relatable species.


* [http://catalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=3&ti=1,3&SAB1=eden&BOOL1=all%20of%20these&FLD1=Title%3A%20All%20%28KTIL%29%20%28KTIL%29&GRP1=AND%20with%20next%20set&SAB2=Stanislaw%20Lem&BOOL2=all%20of%20these&FLD2=Name%3A%20Personal%20Name%20%28KPNC%29%20%28KPNC%29&CNT=25&PID=20288&SEQ=20051211120908&SID=13 Library of Congress]
*Harvest Books; Reprint edition. (1991) ISBN 0-15-627806-5

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