Review: His Master's Voice

By on 10:41 PM

His Master's Voice. Stanislaw Lem, 1968. Novel. Approximately 208 pages. 

"All of these hypotheses I considered not just wrong but ridiculous. In my opinion, the steller code denoted neither a plasmic brain nor an informational machine nor an organism nor a spore, because the object it designated simply did not figure in the categories of our conceptualizations. It was the plan of a cathedral sent to Australopithecus, a library opened to Neanderthals. In my opinion, the code was not intended for a civilization as low on the ladder of development as ours, and consequently we would not succeed in doing anything meaningful with it."


Stanislaw Lem is easily one of the most interesting sci-fi writers of the twentieth century and you'll be hard pressed to find a serious sci-fi fan that doesn't hold a special place in their heart for Solaris. I've
discussed Lem's pessimistic view on the possibility of meaningful communication between humans and sufficiently alien extraterrestrials before in my Solaris review but it's worth reiterating here; Stanislaw Lem's works tend to portray the terrible consequences of humans attempting to understand extraterrestrials. He also loves to terrify readers in unsettling ways.

His Master's Voice was written in 1968 in the midst of the Cold War, and it shows. The protagonist holds an incredibly low view of the military and is furious when he learns that politicians and military leaders intend to use the scientists and their findings for warfare. At the same time His Master's Voice spends quite some time detailing the failings of scientists, particularly the inability for scientists to remain truly neutral.

His Master's Voice is also a very philosophical book, spending dozens of pages simply discussing various concepts and how various situations the the protagonist's world relate to them. All-in-all there is very little action in the book with most of the time devoted to diverse ideas and analysis.


The story is told through the memoirs of a mathematician named Peter Hogarth. Hogarth begins working with the Pentagon on a project code-named His Master's Voice aimed at deciphering what many believe to be a message from outer space. Early on however, we learn that the project led to very few true discoveries, and even the possibility that it could just be a random, natural occurrence.

The rest of the memoir goes on to describe various escapades within the project and the tremendous difficulty scientists face both from the message itself and from parties interested in using the message for their own purpose. The memoir also details some of Hogarth's observations toward his fellow scientists and their unsettling conduct.

Who Should Read This Story

His Master's Voice is worth a read if you're:
A fan of Stanislaw Lem
Interested in strange and unsettling books
Looking for a book that covers a wide variety of philosophical subjects

Final Verdict

All things considered, His Master's Voice is an interesting read. Unfortunately one of its greatest strengths is also a crippling weakness. Lem's philosophical discussions tend to over-stay their welcome. Furthermore, because the book was originally Polish, English versions can sometimes feel a bit stilted. That's not to say His Master's Voice is a bad book, but it is one you'll have to pay attention to. It seems Lem wanted his readers to use just as much mental effort reading the book as he did writing it.

Hopefully I haven't scared you off from giving the book a chance. If so, click here to order a copy from amazon, or click here to see my review of Solaris, my favorite of Lem's books.

Lastly, don't forget to leave a comment. What do you think of Lem's books? Do you think humans will be able to truly communicate with extraterrestrials? Will politicians and the military attempt to subvert any scientific findings for war and personal gain?

Rusty is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and gets up to all kinds of shenanigans planning for any and all kinds of apocalypse when he's not busy reading, writing, or yo-yoing. Keep up with him and Rachel on Facebook and Twitter to get cool, space related news or click here to read more of his thoughts on the terror of alien invasion novels.

About Syed Faizan Ali

Faizan is a 17 year old young guy who is blessed with the art of Blogging,He love to Blog day in and day out,He is a Website Designer and a Certified Graphics Designer.


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