When my favorite high school English teacher, Ms. Ammons, heard I was going to do my IB extended essay on a couple of science fiction books, she suggested stuff like "The Martian Chronicles" or "Fahrenheit 451" from Ray Bradbury. Not that those aren't fine books (451 is a sentimental favorite of mine, BTW), but I had something a little more esoteric in mind - "Solaris," by Stanislaw Lem and "More Than Human" by Theodore Sturgeon. Today, let's go into "Solaris."
Translated works are generally difficult for genuine literary analysis - you lose quite a bit in the transition from Polish to English, so I made sure not to stress any of the particular words or syntax present in Lem's original, instead focusing on the general themes and metaphors that occupy the story. "Solaris" concerns an astronaut who lands on a station orbiting an alien planet covered by a vast, foreboding "ocean." Whether the ocean is or isn't alive (and whether it's intelligent in the way humans define it) is one of the great mysteries of the book.
There isn't much in the way of plot, but the psychological tortures inflicted on both the astronaut and the researchers on the station become increasingly...visceral. If you've ever wanted to peel back the layers of human sanity, at the edge of an alien and unsympathetic consciousness, this is your book. Just avoid the movie versions and go straight for the real thing.