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Bēhance

  • First set of illustrations to Stanislav Lem's SF novel.


    A powerful interstellar space ship, a "second-class cruiser" called Invincible, lands on the planet Regis III which seems uninhabited and bleak, to investigate the loss of sister ship, Condor. During the investigation, the crew finds evidence of a form of quasi-life, born through evolution of autonomous, self-replicating machines. The evolution was controlled by "robot wars", and the only form that survived were swarms of minuscule, insect-like machines. Individually, or in small groups, they are quite harmless to humans and capable of only very simple behavior. However, when bothered, they can assemble into huge swarms displaying complex behavior arising from self-organization, and are able to defeat an intruder by a powerful surge of EMI. Some members of the spacecraft crew suffered a complete memory erasure as a consequence. Big clouds of "insects" are also capable to travel at a high speed and even to climb to the top of troposphere. The angered crew attempts to fight the enemy, but eventually recognizes the meaninglessness of their efforts in the most direct sense of the word.The novel turns into an analysis of the relationship between different life domains, and their place in the universe. In particular, it is an imaginary experiment to demonstrate that evolution may not necessarily lead to dominance by intellectually superior life forms. The plot also involves a Conrad-like dilemma, juxtaposing the values of humanity and the efficiency of mechanical insects. In the face of defeat and imminent withdrawal of The Invincible, Rohan, the spaceship's navigator, undertakes a trip into the 'enemy area' in search of 4 crew members who went missing in action - an attempt which he and captain Horpach see as probably futile, but necessary for moral reasons. Rohan struck into mountains covered by metallic "shrubs" and "insects" and found these crewmen dead. He gathers some evidence and returns to the ship unharmed.