Kris Kelvin arrives at the Solaris research station to find it in a state of utter confusion. Gibarian, one of the three scientists on staff at the station, has committed suicide. One of the others, Dr. Sartorius, has locked himself away. The third, Dr. Snow, is terrified to the point of madness. While trying to figure out what happened, Kelvin contemplates the mystery of Solaris: a planet following an impossible orbit around a double sun, seemingly able to do so because the colloidal ocean that covers its entire surface is capable of making continual adjustments to the world’s gravity to maintain its path. This living ocean undergoes ceaseless metamorphic transformations, producing many kinds of different structures with no discernible pattern; the Solarists studying the world produce many hypotheses to account for these transformations, but they are unable to confirm any of them.
After catching a brief glimpse of another person, Kelvin confronts Snow and demands to know who it is, but Snow refuses to tell him anything. Kelvin ascertains, however, that Sartorius, who is equally unhelpful, is not alone in his rooms. Later, Kelvin is visited in his own quarters by his dead wife Rheya, looking exactly as she did when he last saw her ten years before. Kelvin is horrified by the impossibility of Rheya’s manifestation, while she is gradually possessed of an oddly passive anxiety as she realizes that she cannot understand or explain where she is or how she came to be at the station. Intent on getting rid of the unnatural visitor, Kelvin tricks her into entering a space capsule; he then blasts her into space.
Knowing that Kelvin might now be ready to believe him, Snow explains that all the station staff have...
(The entire section is 708 words.)