Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Rohan, the navigator of the spaceship Invincible, which has been sent to explore the planet Regis III. Some time before, another spaceship, the Condor, landed on Regis III. Less than two days after arrival, the Condor sent a garbled message and then ceased transmitting. The Invincible has been sent to learn what happened. Rohan, the protagonist of the novel and the only substantially developed character, is an Everyman who rises to heroic stature. Like his fellow crew members, he is horrified by the discovery of the Condor, whose crew—all dead—apparently went mad. Like his comrades, he comes to fear and loathe the force that opposes them on Regis III: swarms of tiny crystalline forms that swoop and scatter like insects and form enormous pulsing clouds with great electromagnetic power. Rohan’s triumph comes not in the victory-by-force of the conventional hero but in the recognition—even appreciation—of this “black rain” as an independent form of existence, however alien to humanity.


Horpach, the astrogator (commander) of the Invincible. A gray-haired veteran, tall and broad-shouldered, decisive, and seemingly unflappable—a virtual caricature of the steely military leader—Horpach is revealed to be human and vulnerable in a crucial meeting with Rohan.


Lauda, the chief biologist of the Invincible. Like Horpach, Lauda is a veteran, unusually old for spaceflight. It is he who first proposes that their enemy on Regis III is the product of eons of inorganic or “machine” evolution, a hypothesis that is confirmed by subsequent events.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The Invincible has elements of both the classic detective novel, in which the characters investigate some unusual event, and the futuristic adventure story, in which there is no convenient or unequivocal solution to the problem at hand. While the setting is not as conventional as that offered in Sledztwo (1959; The Investigation, 1974) or Katar (1976; The Chain of Chance, 1978), the detective genre laced with Stanisaw Lem’s ubiquitous irony and sense of play serves the characters well. The quest of Horpach and Rohan for their missing comrades proves to be an exploration of man’s ethical dilemmas made tortuous and bitter by an alien contact that can be pursued only from the narrow perspective of human understanding.

Horpach and Rohan emerge as distinctive characters during this enterprise. Horpach, the unrepentant rationalist and conqueror, is technologically confident, grimly certain of the rightness of contact, and determined to overcome the cybernetic creatures of Regis III. On the other hand, Horpach is also courageous and, within the sphere of technology, quite resourceful. He expresses the themes most critics agree are central to Lem’s work: the tension of living in a universe of “chance and order” in which the natural desire to gain knowledge of the world often becomes an arrogant need to dominate and control what is discovered.

Rohan, in contrast, is a struggling, suffering...

(The entire section is 423 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Who are Lem's envoys of humankind and why do they fail so dramatically to break out of their routine patterns of thinking? The answer may lie...

(The entire section is 715 words.)