The Seventh Voyage of Ijon Tichy, by Stanislaw Lem

It was on a Monday, April second - I was cruising in the vicinity of Betelgeuse - when a meteor no larger than a lima bean pierced the hull, shattered the drive regulator and part of the rudder, as a result of which the rocket lost all maneuverability. I put on my spacesuit, went outside and tried to fix the mechanism, but found I couldn’t possibly attach the spare rudder - which I’d had the foresight to bring along - without the help of another man. The constructors had foolishly designed the rocket in such a way, that it took one person to hold the head of the bolt in place with a wrench, and another to tighten the nut. I didn’t realize this at first and spent several hours trying to grip the wrench with my feet while using both hands to screw on the nut at the other end. But I was getting nowhere, and had already missed lunch. Then finally, just as I almost succeeded, the wrench popped out from under my feet and went flying off into space. So not only had I accomplished nothing, but lost a valuable tool besides; I watched helplessly as it sailed away, growing smaller and smaller against the starry sky. After a while the wrench returned in an elongated ellipse, but though it had now become a satellite of the rocket, it never got close enough for me to retrieve it. I went back inside and, sitting down to a modest supper, considered how best to extricate myself from this stupid situation.

Some of the best time travel sci-fi I’ve read in a long while. And without question the funniest I’ve read in even longer. (Via)

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use dashes so cavalierly.

The original was probably written in Polish, so blame the translator/translation.

I’ve only read one book by Lem (Fiasco – some of the best satire AND hard SF I’ve ever read, bundled as a First Contact novel), and once you get past the translation issues, it’s good, good stuff.

I read this a long time ago. It’s super funny and great satire. Many of the other Ijon Tichy stories are good too.

Always regretted not marathoning Lem, as I tend to do when I find an author I like. Maybe I’ll do that on my next sci-fi kick. I think I’ve only read Solaris (long before Soderbergh came along) and a couple of his short stories.

One of the things I like about his writing style is that (even if it really wasn’t) it strikes me as effortless. So graceful.

Check out Memoirs Found in a Bathtub for pure paranoid genius. You probably only read it once, but you’ll never forget it.