Another part to the topic of node your homework, my translated summary of Stanislaw Lems Solaris. It is one of his most popular novels, many call it his best as well. It is a definite must read for any science fiction enthusiast (and for others as well, of course), so if you intend to read this book on your own, be warned that there are spoilers ahead.

Please take note that this is a translation of my work (from a german text), and while pfft did great work in improving this wu's grammar (thanks!), some errors still might linger about.

Solaris (Stanislaw Lem, 1961)

The story is built around the planet Solaris, which circles around both a blue and red sun through space. Because of the interferring gravital influences of the two suns, the path of the one orbiting planet changes quickly (on an astronomical scale) which results in extreme temperature fluctuations on the planets surface. That is the reason why it would be impossible for life to evolve, since eventual primal germs are killed early.

Why Solaris started to be interesting for scientists was due to the fact that the planet was supposed to be change its path, but strangely it didn't. The planet circles the two suns in an almost perfectly steady path. Expeditions which started to the planet discovered that the planet is almost completely covered by an ocean which consists of a gelatinous matter. No trace of life was found either on the small patches of solid land nor in the ocean. Later the scientists found out that ocean itself somehow managed to steer the planets path and keep it steady. Due to the complexity of this task, the scientists were forced to accept that the ocean is an organic lifeform and imposes a certain intelligence.

During the following years the enourmous amount of theories, hypotheses, analyses and research reports evolved into an own branch of science, the "Solaristic". Some of the theories are so fantastic, that they should be assigned to the area of mystics and metaphysics. On Solaris a research station is installed, which floats above the ocean. With its help it should be attempted to establish a contact with the ocean.

The protagonist of the novel, Kris Kelvin, is sent from Earth to the station to determine if the research success is enough to keep it active. When he arrives, it is occupied by only two scientists. Gibarian, head of the station and former mentor of Kelvin, commited suicide only shortly before. Dr. Snaut is half insane due to his paranoia and Dr. Sartorius avoids human contact whenever possible. When Kelvin first meets Snaut, he warns Kelvin that strange phenomena happen on the station.

Only a few days later Kelvins former wife Harey, who committed suicide 10 years ago, appears to him. Kelvin still accuses himself of being guilty of her death. At first he thinks that he is dreaming, however soon it becomes clear that Harey, despite she doesn't bear any knowledge how she arrived at the station, and that it already 10 years since her death, is very well alive. However, she does differ from a normal human in certain points: she has an superhuman strength which shows as she rips a door out of its hinges. She is not invulvernable, but even the severest wounds heal at an astounding speed. The last strange fact is that Harey always has to stay near Kelvin, because otherwise she is haunted by an obscure fear.

The other scientists are visited by similar "guests", as Snaut calls them. While Sartorius tries to conceal this fact, Snaut tries to avoid to talk about them whenever possible.

It becomes obvious that the guests are creations of the ocean, which brings the deepest personal feelings of guilt of the station's crew to life. Kelvin starts to suspect that the reason for Gibarian's suicide was the presence of those guests. Nobody knows if this is an attempt of the ocean to establish a contact to the humans or even a way of psychological warfare.Kelvin is forced to spend most of his time with Harey, since even the attempt to lock her in a rocket and shoot her in an orbit around the planet only results in her reappearing a few hours later in the station, without any memory of this or other events on the station. Kelvin has serious problems to master this situation. He knows that the person he can see is not his former wife Harey, but a product of the ocean, which is the reason that he often acts cool and rejective. On the other hand, he is attracted to her in a strange way. Harey herself also feels that Kelvin only tolerates her, often puts an act on her. She recognizes that she no longer is what she once was and tries to end her existence. However, even the attempt to burn herself with liquid oxygen fails due to her enormous bodily regeneration. Together with the other scientists Kelvin searches for another method to destroy the guests. At last, they build the so called "annihilator" which should dissolve the matter of the guests on the subatomic layer. The attempt succeeds and Harey disappears and never returns. Still the scientist fail to establish a contact with the ocean.

The tragedy of this story is that Harey, while not physically human, acts, feels and thinks like a human. She is no evil avenging angel or succubus, as can be seen by her suicide attempt, in which she tries to free Kelvin from his pain. While she is a tool of the ocean, even a torturing instrument to the guilt-tormented Kelvin, Harey herself is absolutely free of guilt.