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I'm trying to find a story by Stanislaw Lem about an astronaut piloting a big mech (golem) on a frozen world.

He sets off to find another pilot that disappeared somewhere in the frozen waste. There are very cool descriptions of polymer rain freezing into bizarre and beautiful shapes. Eventually he finds the other pilot in a bubble of the stuff kept up by the heat from the atomic pile, but he too becomes trapped, I think that's the end of the story?

I read it in the 2000s, I think it was in a collection of stories but could have been a shorter book I guess. I remember it very vividly but have not been able to find it in any of the Pirx the Pilot or Ijon Tichy collections. I've looked in every Lem book I can find the past few years. I'm going crazy trying to find this story!!! Please help, thank you.

1 Answer 1

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It isn't a short story. It's the first chapter of the novel Fiasco. It takes place on Titan. The astronaut operating the golem (called a Goliath) is Parvis, and he is setting out to rescue a certain Commander Pirx who has crashed on Titan.

Parvis takes the Goliath into an ice cave in search of Pirx and the cave collapses on him. The chapter ends:

Neither the regular door nor the emergency door could be opened. It is not known how long he sat afterward in the cabin before he removed his helmet and, lying down on the oil-smeared window, raised a hand to the tiny red light, to break the plastic bubble-case and push with all his strength into the unknown future, pressing the recessed button of the vitrifax. Nor can it be known what he thought and what he felt, preparing himself for an icy death.

The bit with the rain (it's snow not rain) freezing into shapes is:

Stopping to listen, to tell the direction of this voice of disaster, he noticed that Birnam Wood had begun to absorb him into itself. It did not approach him like the forest in Macbeth, but came as if out of nowhere. From the air, which was completely still here, appeared microscopic flakes of snow. The snow did not fall; it formed on the dark plates of the armor, on the welds of the shoulder shields. Already his entire upper trunk was dusted with this snow, which lost its similarity to snow because it did not descend compliantly on the metal surfaces of the hull, did not collect loosely in its hollows, but adhered like a white syrup, sprouted, sent out milky threads, and before Parvis realized it, he had grown snowy fur all over. Thousands of fibers extending and catching the light covered him and changed the hull of the Digla into an enormous white doll, an eccentric snowman. Then he made a small movement, a jerk, and frozen molds of his iron limbs, of his shin guards, fell away in huge pieces. But when they hit, they became piles of delicate slivers. Light from the shaky maze brought out phantasmagoric shapes and dazzled the eye, but it did not illuminate the ground.

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  • Was it serialized? Perhaps that's why OP thought it was a short story.
    – Spencer
    Jan 22, 2022 at 16:03
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    Yes, that's it! thank you so much! I have read Fiasco before so that must be where I encountered it. I guess I just liked that part so much that I remembered it as it's own story... thanks again!
    – Lem4eva
    Jan 22, 2022 at 16:38

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