So the super-fast plot summary is: Kris Kelvin grieves for his ex-wife, Rheya, who killed herself.
And that's it.
Doesn't sound like much of a science fiction story, does it? But that's Solaris for you—it's not much of a science fiction story. Or much of a story. But it has its good points, nevertheless.
Okay, so longer version: Kris Kelvin, a psychologist, flies out to the planet Solaris, the home of a giant and possibly sentient ocean thing that humans have been trying to contact forever, but haven't managed to, because talking to a giant gelatinous ocean is harder than it looks.
When Kelvin lands on the station, he discovers that weird things are going on. His old buddy, Gibarian, has killed himself, and the other scientists, Snow and Sartorius, are acting strangely. Also, Kelvin sees a naked black woman walking through the station, who isn't supposed to be there, so there's that. (More on this lady over in the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section, if you're interested.)
Then Kelvin wakes up in his bed on the station and his ex-wife, Rheya, is there with him. This is disturbing, especially since Rheya killed herself several years before when Kelvin broke up with her. Kelvin figures this isn't the real Rheya, so he tricks her into getting into a rocket and shoots her into space. Rheya doesn't take too kindly to this, and exhibits superhuman strength while trying to get out of the rocket, but he shoots her off anyway.
Snow now explains what the deal is: Various visitors—humans or human-like creatures who seem to spring out of the scientists' memories or fantasies—have started to appear. Snow thinks it's connected to the ocean; they bombarded it with X-rays, and in return, it has sent back the visitor as a thank you… or an insult… or a test… or who knows why? The motives of a giant ocean are hard to figure.
The thing about the visitors, though, is that if you get rid of one, the ocean just provides you with another. So soon another Rheya shows up, and Kelvin doesn't shoot this one into space. No, instead he falls in love with her and decides he wants to keep her with him forever, which doesn't seem like it's going to work out very well in the long run.
Rheya, for her part, seems to love Kelvin, but slowly realizes that something is weird. For instance, if he leaves her sight, she flips out and destroys everything around her in an effort to get back to him. Pro tip: That's not quite how love is supposed to work.
Meanwhile, the scientists think they've figured out how the visitors function (it involves neutrinos) and they have various ideas for getting rid of them, including hooking Kelvin up to an EEG and beaming his brainwaves in the form of microwaves into the ocean. Yes, seriously.
What with all the talk about visitors and neutrinos and so forth, Rheya pieces things together and realizes she's an alien and tries to kill herself by drinking liquid oxygen. But she just regenerates. Which is icky to watch.
The scientists try the business with the microwaves and the brain waves, and the ocean gets frisky and makes big waves itself. Rheya sneaks away and gets Snow to shoot her with a neutrino disruptor or some such so she vanishes, and because of the thing with the microwaves and the ocean waves, or maybe for some other reason, visitors don't come back anymore and neither does she.
Kelvin is very upset that Rheya is gone, but eventually he calms down. Snow decides to stay on the station. Kelvin is waiting to get off, and in the meantime visits the ocean and has some vaguely religious thoughts.
Which is pretty much the end of the plot.
Oh, Shmoop almost forgot: The novel also includes a lot of Kelvin summarizing scientific books about Solaris, all of which say that scientists don't know anything about Solaris. In short, Solaris is not just one book in which not much happens; it is a whole multitude of books in which not much happens. The non-action is layered and multiple.
- Kris Kelvin, our hero, gets in a cramped rocket and heads toward the station. Exciting science fantasy awaits… not.
- He's tight in a little rocket and can't really see anything. Welcome to claustrophobia city. (Maybe Lem should have called the novel "Claustrophobia City"?)
- Kelvin tries to call the Solaris station, and gets an automatic response in return. He's surprised; why isn't anyone greeting him? Aren't they excited to get a visitor? Don't they love him?
- And on the landing bay, nobody's there to greet him. A lot of the description in this part seems kind of boring—not much is happening—which is intentional: If you are not bored, you're not doing it right.
- The station is untidy. What have they all been doing, anyway?
- Finally Kelvin gets to a cabin with a guy inside. It's the cyberneticist Snow. He is completely freaked out by seeing Kelvin, though, which is strange, since we've already more or less figured out that Kelvin is not a guy to inspire strong emotion of any sort.
- Kelvin says he's there to see Gibarian, Snow gets all stuttery, but also seems somewhat relieved that Kelvin's there for Gibarian.
- Finally Kelvin tells Snow he's come from Earth, and Snow remembers he was supposed to be expecting him and apologizes for being a weirdo.
- There's more cranky back and forth as Kelvin asks after Gibarian.
- Then Snow tells him Gibarian died that morning. Doesn't Kelvin feel like a jerk now for asking all those questions?
- But Kelvin more or less keeps pressing on—he's a cold fish, that Kelvin.
- Snow mentions the other scientist, Sartorius.
- He warns Kelvin that Kelvin's going to see something or someone, and that someone or something will be real and Kelvin shouldn't attack it.
- Kelvin gets flustered and speaks disparagingly of ghosts and hallucinations, but Snow won't say any more.
- When Kelvin leaves, he notices that Snow has blood on his hands. Cue creepy music, end chapter.
- Kelvin leaves Snow and goes into the corridor; he wanders about nervously, before going to the locker to change his space suit.
- Still changing into his spacesuit… and still changing. This, Shmoop readers, is action-packed space adventure, Lazy-Boy style.
- He takes a shower, and finds a tool box with tools melted. He can't figure out how they were melted (more on this over in the "Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory" section).
- Dressed, Kelvin's still out of sorts, so decides to settle himself by reading a handy book about the history of Solaris. Exposition ensues.
- We go into the history of Solaris. It was discovered a century before Kelvin was born (whenever that was), and it orbits two suns, which means its orbit should be too unstable to allow for life.
- But somehow the orbit isn't as unstable as all that, and scientists eventually figure out that the ocean is some sort of massive biological form.
- Kelvin natters on and on about the hypotheses and counter-hypotheses. Apparently the ocean controls the orbit of the planet somehow, which has caused much consternation among scientists.
- More theories and counter-theories. It's all gobbledy-gook (which is sort of the point—check out the "Symbolism" section to dig into why).
- Finally Kelvin puts the darn book back… but if you thought we'd get plot, you are mistaken.
- Instead Kelvin goes back to talking about how nobody knows anything about Solaris.
- All they know is negative: The Ocean doesn't have a nervous system and they can't figure out really even if or how it's alive.
- Kelvin says that trying to figure out the ocean made people try to figure out issues of mind and consciousness. And guess what? They didn't succeed. It's kind of how things go in this book.
- Now Kelvin gets out a map and looks at it. Contemplating Solaris, he feels like he's being watched. But he isn't. Or is he? (Is it the ocean? Or is it you, dear reader, looking over his shoulder?)
- Kelvin realizes it's time to go back to see Snow again.
- He goes into Gibarian's room, which is a mess.
- He finds some notes that say that Gibarian was bombarding the ocean with intensive X-rays.
- Kelvin hears someone at the door, walks over, and without thinking about it, holds the handle to prevent the person from coming in. Eventually they go away.
- Who was on the other side of the door? Will we ever know? (Spoiler alert: Yes; just hold on.)
- Kelvin finds some cryptic notes from Gibarian; they seem to refer to other books.
- Kelvin heads out into the corridor to meet Snow, and runs into his first alien visitor.
- It's a black woman in a straw skirt and no top. She walks by and goes into Gibarian's room.
- Kelvin is freaked out. He wonders if this is what Snow was warning him about. (It is, dude.)
- So since he has nothing else to do, Kelvin goes on to his meeting with Snow.
- He doesn't tell Snow about the black woman, and instead he asks him about X-ray experiments. Snow hedges, and asks him how he'd heard of them. Kelvin hedges.
- It turns out it was Snow outside the door in Gibarian's room. Told you we'd find out.
- Kelvin should feel silly now for holding the door shut.
- Snow reveals that Gibarian killed himself.
- He also says that Sartorius has barricaded himself in his room.
- They chatter some more and Kelvin reveals he saw someone.
- Kelvin asks Snow why they've locked all the robots away. Snow doesn't answer—shocking, we know.
- They hear bare feet walking along the floor. Kelvin wants to know where the black woman comes from, but Snow doesn't know.
- Kelvin leaves. Snow is upset (not necessarily because Kelvin left, though—more because of other stuff).
- We learn offhand that Kelvin spent his training period in an exact replica of the station. Exact replicas will soon be coming out of the woodwork. Keep an eye out (or an exact replica of an eye out, if you prefer).
- Kelvin goes back to Gibarian's room. He's scared to go in because the woman might be there, but he finally sucks it up and in he goes.
- And once he's there he rummages around and finds the books Gibarian recommended.
- And now we've got Kelvin telling us more about the early Solaris history.
- The book is about the Shannahan expedition, in which one guy named Fechner managed to fall out of his plane into the ocean. Oops. Way to go Fechner.
- Another pilot named André Berton apparently saw something, but wouldn't talk about it when he got back to base.
- Kelvin finishes the book then goes up to see Sartorius.
- The door to Sartorius's room is locked. Kelvin thinks he hears little scampering footsteps behind the door—Sartorius doesn't want to let him in.
- This is all sort of like a horror film, what with the closed doors and creepy sounds. The body count is lower, though.
- After some shouting back and forth, Sartorius agrees to come out.
- Kelvin yells at him about Gibarian's death and the fact that Sartorius has locked himself in the room.
- There are sounds of someone trying to bash through the door. Sartorius grows increasingly agitated and begs Kelvin to leave; he promises to find him later.
- He goes back into the room and Kelvin hears sounds of scuffling and a high laugh. Creepy.
- Kelvin goes downstairs to the room under Sartorius's cabin, thinking of spying on him, but he unexpectedly finds Snow in the cabin. Always in the way, that Snow is.
- They exchange some ill-tempered banter. Then Kelvin goes off to the store rooms.
- He finds Gibarian's body in storage in deep freeze. The black woman is lying next to him, and he touches her and finds out that she's not frozen.
- So he figures he must be going mad.
- He tries to figure out some way to tell if he's mad, but it's tricky since he's the one inside his own head, and he can't get out of it.
- Kelvin decides to run an experiment where he cross-checks the station's location from the satellite with his own calculations as to the location.
- He figures if they both match, then he's not insane.
- He convinces himself that he's not mad, which makes him despair.
- Still upset, Kelvin struggles with his mechanical bed and then he sees Rheya, who died when she was nineteen and in a relationship with Kelvin.
- Kelvin thinks he's dreaming.
- They kiss, and Kelvin starts to think that maybe he isn't dreaming at all, which is upsetting since Rheya is dead and they're kissing and everything. Ick.
- He checks Rheya's arm and finds a hypodermic mark. That's how she killed herself. Except if she killed herself, she shouldn't be walking around, obviously.
- Kelvin remembers Rheya's suicide: She killed herself after he left her, which makes him feel guilty, as you'd imagine.
- Kelvin stabs his hand with one of the misshapen tools to wake himself up, but no go.
- Rheya is confused and disturbed because she doesn't know how she got there.
- Kelvin shaves and tries to leave Rheya in the room, but she says she can't be away from him.
- Kelvin thinks this is very unlike her—Rheya wasn't one to make a nuisance of herself.
- He tries to hold her arms behind her while he finds something to tie her, but she throws him across the room without really exerting herself or seeming to mean to.
- She is a super-powered dream ghost. Unexpected.
- He gives her sleeping pills, but that doesn't work either; she just takes them and then laughs at him.
- She tells him he looks all stuffy like Pelvis. Pelvis is some guy whom Kelvin met after Rheya died, so Rheya shouldn't know about him—but then again, Rheya shouldn't be there at all since she's dead.
- Kelvin caresses her and has an impulse to kill her. He remembers Snow's bloodstained hands, and figures out that Snow must have killed one of his own visitors.
- The two decide to go out; Kelvin needs her to put on a flying suit. She tries to take off her dress, but there're no fastenings; the buttons are just decorative.
- So how did she get into the dress? Magic.
- They go out to a launch rocket, and Kelvin tricks Rheya into going inside. He locks the door on her.
- Rheya starts to bash at the door from the inside, shaking it with superhuman strength. She calls out to him, "Kris! Kris!" in a voice that doesn't seem human.
- Freaking out, Kelvin launches the rocket into space. He feels satisfied with himself.
"The Little Apocrypha"
- Kelvin's hands and face are burned from the rocket launch, so he goes back to his cabin to get some ointment.
- Someone's sitting in a chair in the room; for a second he's terrified, presumably because he thinks it's Rheya, but it turns out to just be Snow.
- Snow asks him if he's had a visitor, and compliments him on getting rid of it so fast. Snow speculates on how Kelvin got rid of it.
- Then Snow explains that Gibarian got the first visitor.
- Gibarian locked himself in his room and the rest of them thought he was mad.
- Before they could break down the door and get him out, though, they got visitors themselves, and everything went higgledy-piggledy.
- Snow explains that Rheya will come back, but won't remember Kelvin putting her in the ship and shooting her into space.
- Kelvin explains that Rheya was his wife and that she killed herself when Kelvin left.
- Snow is very sympathetic.
- He tells Kelvin that this story is tragic and horrible, but there are or can be worse visitors.
- Snow suggests that some visitors are fantasies or uncontrollable thoughts made flesh.
- Snow goes on for a bit about how human beings look out into the cosmos but are really only looking for themselves.
- Kelvin realizes that Snow believes the ocean has created the visitors and thinks the dude's nutty. Why would the ocean do such a thing?
- Snow points out that they don't have any idea about why the ocean does anything. It's a big sentient ocean-thing, so who knows why it does what it does? It's like trying to figure out the mind of God.
- The visitors started to come after the scientists bombarded the ocean with X-rays, Snow says.
- The two men speculate as to whether or not the ocean created one of them, but then decide it didn't and they're real.
- There's some talk about trying to kill the visitors, and whether they're human, since they think they're human.
- Snow has the book The Little Apocrypha with him, which Gibarian had told Kelvin to look at in the note he left behind.
- Snow gives the book to Kelvin.
- They talk briefly about how Sartorius is coping by attempting to remain normal.
- They talk about other options: destroying the station, running away only to be declared mad.
- Nothing looks good, though, and Kelvin is upset by the thought that Rheya, or something like Rheya, will be back.
- Finally Snow leaves; Kelvin sits down to read The Little Apocrypha.
- It's a book of crank theories about Solaris, focused especially on the testimony of Andre Berton, the pilot who survived after another pilot threw himself into the ocean.
- The book then goes into a transcript of Berton's responses to the Commission of Enquiry.
- Berton says he was flying around in a fog and the ocean was creating various inchoate forms—and then he saw a kind of garden in the ocean.
- Then the garden broke apart.
- Berton explains that he thought it was a mirage, not a hallucination, because he didn't feel ill; he saw an enormous child, and it's body was moving.
- The Commission of Enquiry is skeptical.
- Berton says it seemed as if the infant was being moved by something else.
- He pulled up and continued searching for Fechner, without success; he got sick in the cabin.
- He says he saw one more impossible thing, and he asks if the Committee believes him or not.
- They tell him they think he was hallucinating, at which point he refuses to describe the last thing he saw.
- He does arrange to meet one person, though, Dr. Messenger, who apparently believed his account.
- That's the end of the transcript. Then there's a little note from Messenger, implying that Berton saw something from Fechner's memories.
- Messenger thinks the ocean was trying to understand Fechner's brain.
- Kelvin thinks to himself that Berton was an accurate observer, since he knows that the ocean is a tricky colloid.
- He remembers he has tapes he got from Gibarian's room, which he hasn't listened to yet. He hides them under the bed.
- The door opens and Rheya comes in. Sort of like "The Monkey's Paw," but with substantially less gore.
- Kelvin is sleeping with Rheya; he has a bad dream and she's concerned for him.
- Rheya thinks he doesn't trust her so he tries to reassure her, but he realizes she really doesn't know that she's not Rheya.
- Kelvin sleeps for a long time and wakes up with Rheya having put a compress on his head.
- Rheya cut herself out of her dress and put it beside the other dress Kelvin cut the first Rheya out of. Seeing the two dresses side by side makes Kelvin terrified for a moment, but he gets over it.
- He sneaks out of the room and closes and locks the door.
- Rheya bashes through the door like the incredible Hulk, then falls into his arm weeping.
- He carries her back into the room—her hands are cut to the bone—but as she rests on the bed, her hands regrow and regenerate.
- Rheya doesn't remember smashing through the door. Kelvin is now quite upset himself, but he tries to comfort Rheya. Which seems like a good idea: You probably don't want the super-powered, semi-amnesiac, volatile simulacra getting any more worked up than necessary.
- Kelvin takes a sample of her blood.
- Snow calls and says that Sartorius wants to have a video conference with all three of them. They can't meet in person because they have visitors, and Snow and Sartorius don't want Kelvin to see them.
- Kelvin examines the drop of Rheya's blood through a super microscope: It seems not to exist on the sub-molecular level.
- The conference with Snow and Sartorius gets underway via video. Kelvin explains what he saw with the blood, and he says the visitors appear to be copies superior to the original.
- There's some pseudo-scientific burble about how this might explain everything. It doesn't, really, but so it often goes in science fiction.
- They decide that the visitors are projections from their brains, which explains why the visitors can remember things the originals couldn't, and also why they go bonkers in unanticipated situations and then forget.
- Suddenly Sartorius's visitor tries to get on screen, causing him to be upset.
- They end the conference. Snow says he'll come by and see Kelvin in person later if he can.
- With a title like "The Monsters," you might think this would be some sort of big all out sci-fi battle, with fangs and claws and nasty galumphing critters exploding in space where no one can hear you grunt or explode.
- But, if you've read this far, you probably realize that none of that will happen in Solaris. Solaris does not galumph.
- And we're back to Kelvin sleeping again and waking up out of a dream. There's a lot of that.
- Rheya is upset because Kelvin in his sleep has been saying she isn't really Rheya and that he wants her to go, but she doesn't know how.
- Kelvin does more comforting; then he asks Rheya if she sleeps, and she says she thinks she semi-dreams, and that there are thoughts coming from outside her.
- This upsets Kelvin, but he keeps it together.
- She says she loves him, and he almost screams.
- In the morning there's a note from Snow saying Sartorius wants Kelvin to go out to collect some plasma from the planet; they may be able to destabilize it.
- Kelvin has decided he doesn't want to get rid of Rheya; instead, he wants to keep her with him, so he goes to the library to try to read up on neutrinos and plasma and such (Rheya comes with him).
- He doesn't find much he can understand, so he ends up reading more about the history of Solaris, and telling you and Shmoop all about it. Exposition follows.
- He reads about Giese, an early explorer who tried to categorize the formations created by the Solaris ocean.
- Giese was obsessed with "mimoids," objects which the Solaris ocean creates that appear to mimic things external to the ocean itself.
- Long, detailed description of how the mimoids works. Lots and lots of description.
- And then a description of symmetriads, which are symmetrical forms that are created in the ocean. They're unstable, so they can be dangerous—of you see a symmetriad in your tub, call 9-1-1.
- Symmetriads defy physics and people thought they were computers but then decided they weren't.
- More about how limited humans and science are: You know nothing, Shmoop knows nothing, science knows nothing.
- Kelvin tells an anecdote about a schoolchild visiting the Solarist Institute who asked, "what does all this mean?" and no one knew.
- They should have looked it up on Shmoop, obviously.
- Kelvin talks about one time when a construction of the ocean suddenly fell in, killing one hundred and six people.
- Folks on earth talked about dropping nuclear bombs on it, but then decided not to, in part because a scientist on the planet threatened to stay there and let the bomb kill him.
- Kelvin finishes reading, and turns to trying to figure out some way to save Rheya from Sartorius's plans to make the visitors go away.
- Kelvin pretended to agree to the plan, but now he's looking through physics texts to try to find some way to invalidate it.
- Snow comes to the room; he is introduced to Rheya for the first time (Shmoop believes this is the first time Kelvin comes out and says that Rheya is his wife).
- He says he's divorced, which means he's somehow gotten rid of his visitor for the time being.
- Snow says that Sartorius is out of touch at the moment, but that he wants to try beaming X-rays modified by Kelvin's brainwaves at the ocean. Because, reasons.
- Snow wants to know if Kelvin will agree. Kelvin thinks it is silly, Snow says that okay, then they'll build an annihilator.
- Kelvin says that the annihilator (a negative neutrino field, if you believe it) will cause the visitors to explode, killing everyone.
- Snow is depressed and skeptical, but he takes Kelvin's calculations to show Sartorius.
- Then Snow leaves.
- Rheya thinks Snow was looking at her funny. Which he probably was, all things considered.
The Liquid Oxygen
- Kelvin is lying in the dark looking at his watch; he reaches for Rheya, but she's not there.
- Instead, Gibarian comes in. (The real Gibarian? A dream? Another visitor? We don't know.)
- Gibarian tells him that Sartorius and Snow have realized that Kelvin was fooling them about the possibility of the visitors blowing up.
- Kelvin wakes up, but Gibarian's voice seems to be going on (it's the tape that Kelvin hid under the bed, remember?).
- Anyway, Rheya is there when he wakes up, and he drifts back off.
- In the morning, Kelvin discovers the tape recorder is missing from under the bed, but he doesn't discuss it with Rheya because he doesn't want to quarrel.
- He notices a change in Rheya's behavior, but isn't sure what the cause is.
- Because the Gibarian vision warned him to be on guard, he goes looking for a weapon in the station, without much success.
- Rheya tells him she thinks that he's lying to her, which he is, but he won't say anything. It's a classic lovers' quarrel scene.
- Shift to nighttime, Kelvin sleeping again.
- He wakes up to find that Rheya has drunk liquid oxygen—she killed herself, just like she killed herself in real life.
- The effects are horrific… but it doesn't kill her. She's one tough simulacra/alien life form/horrible memory, Rheya is.
- Rheya is really upset that she didn't kill herself, especially since it proves she's some sort of non-human thing.
- Kelvin tries to convince her that he loves her, the non-human thing, and doesn't care about the dead Rheya who is somewhere else.
- Rheya is skeptical, though, and she explains that she listened to Gibarian's tape, which explained that she's created by the ocean to test the humans. Or for some reason, anyway.
- She says she wants to die.
- Kelvin says it's good that she's different because it means the liquid oxygen didn't kill her.
- Kelvin seems to more or less convince Rheya that he loves her. He says he can't even remember the old Rheya anymore.
- Kelvin gets a note from Snow that Sartorius is going to work on the brain wave X-ray project.
- He needs to go, but isn't sure what to do with Rheya. Can she wait in the corridor? Maybe, but she is worried she'll lose control and Hulk out and tear through the door or some such.
- Kelvin tells her they can leave the station together and get a little house in the country and have kids and live happily ever after.
- Well, he doesn't exactly say that, but that's the idea.
- Rheya thinks if she hears Kelvin's voice she can stand outside and not listen while he and Snow chat (Kelvin's worried about what Snow might say).
- So Snow and he get together and chat.
- Snow figures out that Kelvin wants to leave the station and get the house in the country, and such. He is skeptical about the viability of this, and he gently tells Kelvin he's an idiot.
- Also, Snow points out there's still another Rheya 2.0 in that capsule that Kelvin blasted into space. Does Rheya 3.0 know about her?
- No, she doesn't, Kelvin says. He's cranky about it.
- Snow suggests that if Kelvin takes Rheya off-planet, the neutrino field might disintegrate, which would mean no Rheya anywhere.
- Also, Snow says, Kelvin's love and morality don't make any sense in this situation. He's being manipulated, plus just loving something in his own head.
- Snow tells Kelvin to meet Sartorius tomorrow; Kelvin leaves.
- Rheya is all happy because she didn't Hulk out when Kelvin left.
- Kelvin is less happy.
- He worries that if they record his EEG and beam it into the ocean, the ocean will detect a secret desire to get rid of Rheya, and then it will be as if he has killed her.
- He decides he won't help them with the EEG.
- Kelvin can't sleep because he's nervous about the experiment. But then he finally goes to sleep and wakes up and thinks it's no big deal. The moral of the story? Get a good night's rest, especially if you're on an alien planet with the ghost of your ex-wife.
- They head down to the lab, where Sartorius straps Kelvin into the brain sensors and tells him to lay back and think of the glory of the human race.
- He thinks instead of Rheya and then of Giese, the father of Solaris studies, and then of his own father.
- The experiment ends; Kelvin says it was successful, somewhat to Sartorius's surprise.
- Rheya and Kelvin head back to the cabin, but then he says he needs to go to the library. She follows along because if she doesn't she'll go crazy and destroy doors and such. It doesn't seem like an ideal relationship.
- He thinks of looking up Giese, whom he was just thinking about, but then he gets distracted by Gravinsky's Compendium, which is a list of all the work done on Solaris up to when it was written (twenty years prior; so it's way out of date).
- And then we get a long discussion of the progress of Solarist thought—from the idea that the ocean was lifeless, then that it was living and could be contacted, and eventually to a sense of despair and resignation in the face of an inability to figure out what's going on with that darn ocean anyway.
- And then the ocean was more or less forgotten by the public.
- Kelvin goes on to look at a pamphlet by Grastrom, which says that humankind knows nothing, science is largely useless, and we'll never contact another alien civilization because we're just too insular.
- Kelvin muses that the new Solaris phenomena show that the ocean is living, conscious, and psychic, invalidating a whole range of Solarist theories and validating a whole range of others. That's science.
- He reads Muntius's Annual, which says that Solarist science is just religion and mysticism.
- Next he finds a pamphlet by Gibarian called "Why I am a Solarist," in which Gibarian declares his faith in contact without making any extreme statements.
- Finally, there's a brief summary of Kelvin's own doctorate, which suggested that there was a parallel between the emotions of humans and the electrical discharges of the ocean. Solaris is just like us after all.
- They've beamed the X-rays with Kelvin's brainwaves into the ocean, but not much has happened.
- Kelvin is worried that Sartorius is still working on a disruptor to zap the visitors.
- Kelvin is apathetic; things with Rheya are weird, but he can't make himself try to fix anything.
- Kelvin thinks his funk is caused by an alien presence. He's also having bad dreams.
- In the dreams, he is imprisoned in an alien body, or is an alien body, and then something penetrates the body, maybe a woman, and they are together and then they dissolve into worms, which is upsetting. Ick.
- He also has dreams in which someone or something is exploring him; he finds these terrifying.
- Fifteen days after the experiment, he wakes up and the ocean is throwing up huge structures and generally behaving unexpectedly.
- Snow comes over to chat, and tells Kelvin he shouldn't stop shaving—that's how things started to go bad with Gibarian.
- Snow seems to be drunk; he starts babbling about how Sartorius is trying to cure immorality and making progress.
- Rheya is freaked out, so Kelvin tells Snow to get out.
- More babbling by Snow, but eventually he leaves. Kelvin and Rheya stare at each other.
- Weeks pass and Rheya and Kelvin plan their lives on Earth.
- One night Kelvin hears Rheya get out of bed and talk to someone and leave.
- But when he wakes up she's there and says she didn't leave.
- She says she doesn't want to talk about going to Earth anymore. They talk and he says he loves her and she cries; then she gives him a drink, which tastes bitter.
- Kelvin wakes up… and yep, Rheya's gone.
- Kelvin has a fit, but eventually he calms down and comes to himself in Snow's room.
- Snow tells him Rheya is dead.
- Kelvin accuses Snow of getting Rheya to give him the sleeping pill and setting it all up, but Snow gives him a note from Rheya, which shows that she wanted to be destroyed.
- They zapped her with the destabilizer, which mucked up her neutrinos. Or something like that.
- Anyway, Snow explains that the visitors don't come back since the day that the ocean got all agitated.
- The two of them argue: Kelvin wants to destroy the planet now that it's taken Rheya away, but Snow feels like contact is still possible.
- They plan to write a report and Snow convinces Kelvin that the ocean probably just created Rheya without any malevolent intent.
- And Snow plans to stay on Solaris, much to Kelvin's shock.
The Old Mimoid
- Kelvin is waiting to leave the station for several months.
- He thinks about how he'll eventually heal and be a new Kelvin, less ambitious or silly. It's a description of the grieving process, really; he's mourning Rheya again.
- Snow comes in and they start to talk about religion; Kelvin has an idea that the ocean is a god, but an imperfect one, who wants to free himself from matter, but can't manage it.
- Snow and Kelvin ponder whether humankind might be that god, or the ocean.
- Snow isn't taking it all that seriously, though. He suggests that maybe the ocean is a child, just playing and not having achieved full rationality yet.
- Kelvin decides to go out to visit an old mimoid over the ocean in a helicopter. Snow is still worried that Kelvin will kill himself, but Kelvin tells him to stop fussing.
- Kelvin explores the mimoid and realizes that he really came to see the ocean.
- He gets out on a beach, puts his hand in the ocean, and it molds to his hands. Nifty.
- He thinks about Rheya and how he is waiting for her without hope.