Eden by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What a gem of an old SF! Indeed, Stanislaw Lem might be one of the very best SF authors, period. He has a wide range of works, from humorous to deeply disturbing to fantastically mysterious alien discoveries.
"What?" you say, "That whole tail-end period of the golden age of SF was FULL of great and detailed authors. Just look at Dune from 1965!"
"Yeah, yeah, but before Star Trek in the wee year of 1959, Eden was born, giving us one of the richest, most detailed alien worlds as seen through a small crew named only by their job titles, instead forcing us to see things through their worldviews, as screwed up (normal!) as they are, misunderstanding everything they see on Eden."
But this is not Dune.
This is a full mystery that gets only digs us deeper into our own misunderstandings. Because this is an intelligent alien race that does not think like us. Not only superficially, but fundamentally, with strange technological focuses and social structures. Not to mention biological tools that feel like the most excellent precursor to Farscape or Asher's Hilldiggers, or the look at a truly alien mind, as seen in Watts' Blindsight.
And I'm only mentioning a single aspect, here. The rest is a serious look at how much we bring in our own prejudices, making our own hell, wherever we go.
When I look back at first contact novels in general, few will have quite this amazing creative factor to it. Sure, some books will have so and so good characters, etc, but none will be quite as serious about giving us the truly alien or near-perfect mirrors to our own stupidity.
I count this a truly classic "Important" SF.
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