Researcher Kris Kelvin arrives on Solaris, a planet covered by a mysterious—and possibly intelligent—plasma-ocean-entity, only to find the facilities of the research base untended and in a state of disrepair. Kelvin searches the station and discovers Dr. Snow, a drunken, distracted base worker whose utterances and behavior indicate that the entire crew has become unstable. The station commander, Gibarian, has committed suicide.
During his initial investigation of the facility, Kelvin feels as though he is being watched and hears movement nearby when nothing apparently is there. These eerie sensations become concrete encounters as Kelvin begins to discover the cause of the crew’s mental distraction: They are being plagued by visits from alien simulacra, pseudo-beings that are extrusions of Solaris’ living ocean.
Kelvin attempts to contact another surviving crew member, Dr. Sartorius, who refuses to let Kelvin enter his rooms. Only under duress does he concede to come out. It becomes obvious to Kelvin that Sartorius, who is extremely agitated, is concealing the presence of some other being in his quarters.
The next day, Kelvin discovers that he has a visitor of his own, a simulacra in the shape of a woman he used to love. This simulacra appears and behaves exactly as he remembers Rheya, but she is unaware of her alien origins. Kelvin, distracted and disturbed by her presence, lures her into a launch capsule and deposits her...
(The entire section is 595 words.)