Saturday, June 19, 2010


by Frederik Pohl, 312 pages.

Great work, feels like it should be a lot more famous than it seems to be nowadays. Darkly amusing storyline, for one, with some very intensely depicted humans that are just the right touch of not psychologically right to be engaging without alienating interest. The book also possesses strange aliens, a fast plot, and powerful ideas. It's perhaps most engaging as the study of deeply dysfunctional characters and wider systems, while the eventual grounds of the nationalist tensions are unique and coherent enough to be intriguing in their own right. The contrast between all the hopes of utopia in the new world and the colonial agendas that get dragged along, and then in the end (possibly) achieving something like utopia after all makes for an interesting dynamic.

With some gap, the thing that's stayed with me the most is the nationalist major, and her particularly potent form of insanity. Plus that after all the chaos and violence at the very end all major factions hold back and avoid Armageddon. The book works as an analogy for colonialism on several levels, and if at the end humanity is shown as second-class citiziens absorbed into an alien polity and loosing their own cultural characteristics--well, that’s the way the dice roll. The events of the story are intense, they feel plausible within the defined terms of the setting and narrative, and they work the trite scenario of interplanetary invasion of an alien planet in a rather distinctive fashion.

No major complaints in terms of the story. It lacks the scale or ultimately deftness of story to be one of the truly great alien stories, but it is highly recommended, and one of best Pohl novels I’ve read.

Better than: The Years of the City by Frederik Pohl
Worse than: Manifold Space by Stephen Baxter

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