“The Invincible” is a contemporary yet classic science fiction story written by the renown Polish author Stanislaw Lem. The book is very well translated into English from the original by Bill Johnston who is also credited for translating a few of Lem’s other works. The audiobook is wonderfully and flawlessly performed by Peter Berkrot. This is the first piece of Lem’s work I have listened too and I’m surprised it has taken me this long to find him. As stated on Audible, he is one of the most widely translated and best known non-English science fiction authors. I will say, after listening to this work, I will be looking for more from this author. The book really is a more classis story, written in 1967 but it has many twists which were not only new and interesting at the time of its writing, but also relevant and interesting today. The book is categorized as hard science fiction, yet I would call it more classic or old school science fiction. It is a bit slow to start but sticking with it will reward the listener. I would recommend this audiobook to nearly anyone who enjoys a good science fiction piece as you can listen and get lost in all its sci-fi goodness.
The story revolves around a ship that is dispatched to determine the outcome of another missing vessel called The Condor. The team lands on a fairly inhospitable planet and come face-to-face with a strange, complex, and rather hostile intelligence. This antonymous and hive mine like creature travels around in a cloud like configuration and often comes in contact with various intelligent and non-intelligent objects along the way. When this creature feels threatened, it quickly envelopes its prey and destroy it with a swarm mentality. It makes me think of a swarm of wasps. The world our characters are dropped in seems unforgiving and yet very familiar at the same time. The book has all the elements one would expect from a solidly written and translated work of science fiction. There are space ships, advanced technology, otherly creatures, and interesting firepower. Not only is the book centered around a search and rescue mission, it really turns into a book of survival.
I found the authors ability to create a well-defined set of characters and situations welcomed as many books in this genre today lack this detail. The book seemed to start slowly, but all of that builds up to the climax and resolution. I like that a true story arc could be seen in the piece as the book felt right as it unfolded. Sure, there is action, adventure, and aliens, but there is also emotion and the book really show the camaraderie between those in the military and the desire to not leave anyone behind; alive or dead. Not that this is a negative desire, however we find out that not leaving when given the chance has its own consequences. The book also has an overarching feeling of mystery and suspense like that found in the Alien series. The listener will wonder what is behind that large boulder coming up, etc. The author provides a very descriptive world and characters that felt multi-dimensional and the enemy had depth to it. As these worlds were created, we quickly lean how unforgiving both the environment was and the enemy the team was battling.
Let me turn to the book’s narration. Peter Berkrot is no new comer to narration or Audible. Today he has over three-hundred book performances currently available on the platform. I have listened to many of his other published narrations and always have enjoyed the quality and sound of his voice. The audio itself was professionally produced and clear of any noticeable artifacts such as page turns, swallows, etc. Mr. Berkrot’s voicing of all the various characters along with their accents was flawless. If you have not listened to any of Mr. Berkrot works, I would recommend you start with this excellent book.
For parents and younger readers. This book does not include any profanity that I recall. There were a few places that I thought it may have been used, but I was incorrect when I went back and listened. There are a few quite vivid and graphic scenes of violence, but apart from that you get what one can expect in a classic piece of science fiction.
In summary, if you are looking for a classic and solid science fiction story that starts out slow but ramps up quite quickly, I can easily recommend this book. There are all the standard space marine story essentials, but the book also includes some very unique aspects as well. It was ahead of its time around intelligence and autonomy. I will have to listen to a few of the other books by this author to get a better idea of his works and style.