''Astronauci'' (The Astronauts) is one of Creator/StanislawLem's earliest novels, and his second science-fiction work[[note]]after the obscure ''The Man from Mars'' from 1946[[/note]]. Written in 1951, its success was what convinced Lem to get into science-fiction.
In the [[SocialistRealism utopian Communist]] future, a crashed extraterrestrial starship is found underground during construction works, and aboard is a message in an alien language which, chillingly, indicates that a race from Venus is planning to eradicate all life on Earth. A multi-national expedition of scientists sets out to Venus in order to study the planet and prevent the tragedy by any means necessary. [[spoiler:Eventually, it turns out that the Venusians have annihilated their civilization in a self-destructive war long ago.]]
The novel was an OldShame for Lem due to quite large amounts of Communist propaganda within (though it was pretty much mandatory for a novel at that time in Poland). Still, against the bleak background of SocialistRealism literature that was filling the bookstores at that time, the book's exciting speculative fiction aspects have enthralled young readers, and it was a hit back in its time.
It has been adapted into two films, ''Der Schweigende Stern'' (East Germany, 1960) and ''FirstSpaceshipOnVenus'' (USA, 1962).
!!The novel shows the following tropes:
* AlienGeometries: The White Sphere, a Venusian object where light moves along arced rather than straight lines, causing a great deal of confusion for characters who wander inside.
* ExecutiveMeddling: Pressure from the political elements is the main source of Communism praise in the book.
* LectureAsExposition: Two lengthy chapters where a group of schoolchildren is taught how the spaceship and its computer work. (Note how the author felt the need to explain to his contemporary audiences what a "computer" ''is'' before expositing on how it works.)
* OldShame: Lem [[http://english.lem.pl/works/novels/astronauts hated this book]].
* SocialistRealism: Parts of it are evident, such as the ridiculously perfect and spotless protagonists, and of course the occasional propaganda.
* TechnologyMarchesOn: The spaceship's computer, which has no textual interface at all, instead displaying all its output as wavey graphs without any numbers or words. The operators must specifically learn to read these.
* TheWatson: Smith the pilot, who's the narrator with little knowledge on science, prompting the other crewmen to regularly drop educational exposition on him.