Critical Context

Fiasco presents themes that pervade Lem’s fiction: themes of alien contact, cybernetics, and artificial intelligence, as well as themes of the human hunger for absolute knowledge, the limits of knowing, and the slavery of reason to human biology. Distinctive to this novel is the emphasis on Christianity in the character of Father Arago. Although Lem has often affirmed his atheism, he has also affirmed the human need for faith, as the expression of preference for specific values. Father Arago’s faith leads to the only admirable ethical position in Fiasco, even though that position does not prevail.

Like Lem’s other works, this novel is rich in invention. Reviewers, though they acknowledged its lack of interesting characters, were enthusiastic about the novel’s engaging plot, vivid description, and intellectual weight.