The Cyberiad Critical Essays

Stanislaw Lem


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The prose of the stories in The Cyberiad is a peculiar mix of current usage, archaic medieval language, and jargon from various technical disciplines, particularly cybernetic theory, electronics, and quantum mechanics. The hard sciences around which modern technology is based gain the semblance of medieval magic and make the principal characters resemble Terry Pratchett’s wizards.

An interesting feature of the language in the work is its literalness: changing the description changes the described. In one case, the lack of a dragon was changed into the back of a dragon, producing a dragon with two backs. This literalness is familiar to anyone who has dealt with a computer, and it adds an additional humorous element.

Various themes appear in the stories, among them the blindness of love, the follies of greed and pride, the insidiousness of bureaucracy, and the stupidity of blind suspicion. In all, the stories are reminiscent of Aesop’s fables, as the title suggests. The stories as a whole equate the condition of all conscious things, machine and flesh, and suggest that a conscious effort to improve the existence of others creates more grief than doing nothing.

Stanisaw Lem’s characters are all tools he uses to illustrate some point. Kings are inevitably poor rulers, through either cruelty or lack of interest. When political systems other than monarchies are described, however, they are shown to be worse because they...

(The entire section is 564 words.)