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review 2017-03-12 02:53
Gateway by Frederik Pohl
Gateway - Frederik Pohl

Series: Heechee Saga #1


I think this may have been my first book by Pohl, and I’m not sure whether there’s any point in my trying to continue the series.


The concept behind the book was interesting. Humans discovered an alien space station (rock) with a lot of ships with pre-programmed courses and they blindly set out on missions in these ships to try to discover Heechee alien artifacts. Sounds cool, right? But then the book seems to just go on and on and on, and nothing seems to be happening because the main character, Bob Broadhead, is too scared to actually go on any of the missions. He does eventually go but by that point I was already tired of him and his whining. Meanwhile we keep bouncing between the past at Gateway and the present in Bob’s computer-psychiatrist’s office who apparently puts great stock in dreams. Yawn. Did I mention that he blames his girlfriend for triggering her beating by hitting him? [Aside: I’m not defending her hitting him but he beat her very badly and justifies it to himself that way.] And I was already tired of him before this point.


Classic science fiction and I are not a very good match, apparently, and this book was only published in 1977.

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text 2017-03-08 12:33
Reading progress update: I've read 95 out of 278 pages.
Gateway - Frederik Pohl

I'm not sure whether I'm not reading this fast enough (i.e. spending enough time reading it) but it feels like nothing is happening and the story is starting to drag.


At first I found the present-day stuff with the psychiatric computer amusing, but it's starting to be the same thing over and over again. So far Bob has completed his training and met Klara, but that's about it.


The mysterious Heechees are interesting, but somehow I doubt we ever learn more about them, at least in this book.


Anyway, this is rapidly going from a possible 4-star read to maybe a 2-star, if that.

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text 2016-11-15 03:46
The World at the End of Time - Frederik Pohl


Stories with no definitive ending can be so annoying!



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text 2016-11-08 13:28
Reading progress update: I've read 142 out of 400 pages.
The World at the End of Time - Frederik Pohl


My DWS Nov birthday read.


The way things are going, I don't think there is going to be a happy ending.

For anyone.

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review 2016-08-31 16:00
The Annals of the Heechee / Frederick Pohl
The Annals of the Heechee - Frederik Pohl

Deep inside a nearly solid ball of energy called the kugelblitz, just outside the halo of the Milky Way, lurked the would-be destroyers of the universe.

Humans called them the Foe. Heechee called them the Assassins. No creature that had ever seen them had lived to tell the tale. But ancient ruins scattered about the galaxy, and the shattered remnants of races such as the Sluggards and the Voodoo Pigs, were evidence of the Foe’s devastating power—and their cold-blooded determination to destroy all intelligent life. For eons now, the Foe had been strangely silent, but galactic history made clear that they could strike again at any time. So Heechee and human had joined in a constant vigil at the edge of the kugelblitz.

Advanced Heechee technology had enabled Robinette Broadhead to live after death as a machine-stored personality. But even he, virtually immortal and with unlimited access to millennia of accumulated data, could not discover what the Foe were—or how to stop them.

Now it looked as if the Foe had ventured out again. As humans and Heechee rallied their forces to defend against an alien race that had never met defeat, Robin Broadhead found himself the only one able to deal with the Foe face to face—a meeting which would determine the future of the entire universe…


I must confess, I liked this book enough to finish it but I am glad the series is finished.  Robinette Broadhead is a dull, histrionic main character and this book contains waaaay too much lecturing and philosophizing.  A lot of that is done through Pohl’s usual device in this series: the computer program known as Albert Einstein. 


You would think that when Rob Broadhead died, we would be free of him as main character.  Instead, he is uploaded into a computer environment and survives to remain the focus of the series.  I do take issue with a stored intelligence being as moody, weepy, and “gloopy” as Pohl writes Rob—without the brain structures to support emotions, I just doubt that emotion would be able to run someone’s life so completely.  But what do I know?  We are so far away from being able to do this, that there isn’t any way of judging.  And all this anxiety now seems to be pointless—Rob is basically immortal, still wealthy & influential, and has his lady love stored with him.  His only worry should be maintaining the machinery that comprises his new environment and keeping up to technological changes.


And OMG, the astrophysics that gets booted around this novel!  I never minded it from Arthur Clarke, who made it a part of the story without long info-dump interludes, but Pohl gives Albert way too much screen time.  Although he keeps telling Rob that he’s “making it as simple as he can,” I get the sense that Pohl was enjoying giving little lectures and I really wish that his editor had been more brutal. 


What I did enjoy was getting a better sense of the Heechee, although I have still never figured out where that name came from.  Pohl introduces other life forms as well, the Sluggards and the Voodoo Pigs among them.  I think he could have used some help with better names for his aliens and with making them more interesting and relevant to the story.  Having said that, when we do finally discover life elsewhere in the universe, I wonder how much of it will be bacteria, algae, or coral-like?  Not really something that we can interact with in a meaningful way.  But this is fiction, and I persist in wanting interesting aliens (like in Brin’s Uplift universe).


What a contrast to the work of Arthur Clarke!  Pohl’s work is sticky with emotion, while Clarke’s is cooly intellectual.  Both Pohl and Clarke have humans dealing with vastly superior alien civilizations, but Pohl’s seems menacing while Clarke’s seem to be mildly interested (<i>2001, Childhood’s End</i>) to indifferent (<i>Rendezvous with Rama</i>).  Clarke’s work left me longing to know more about these aliens, while Pohl’s left me dissatisfied that they had been so involved, and yet I knew next to nothing about them. 


Book number 226 in my science fiction & fantasy reading project.


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