Monday, May 23, 2011

All the Lives He Led by Frederik Pohl ****

Science Fiction in the classic style: All the Lives He Led by Frederik Pohl, an author who pioneered classic science fiction, has won every science fiction award, and has been doing this for over 70 years. What is classical science fiction? A dystopic world and a narcissistic male. In this case it is 2079 and the world ecology has been destroyed by the re-eruption the the Yellowstone super volcano - a pleasant respite from the traditional evils of malevolent governments, aliens, and out-of-control technology. But, the protagonist, Burt Sheridan, is quite traditional - a loner against the world, more interested in self-preservation and sex, than saving the world, which, as usual, is both unsavable and unworthy.

Like the true master he is, Pohl creates a fascinating world - the center piece of which is the bi-millennial celebration of the explosion of Pompeii - in a virtuoso combination of history, technology, and satire (directed mostly at amusement parks). 2079 is a time when the population has bifurcated into refugees and indentureds and the bottom and the very rich and the security forces at the top. Entertainment technology is heavy of holographic virtual displays and low-energy technologies such as dirigibles and bio-tech. While the volcano tipped the scale to disaster, the immediate problem is a man-made plague.

Pohl, a science fiction master, manages the technology with out bogging down the in the swamps of explanation and explanatory digression. However, he does not overcome the challenge of a protagonist who is basically a self-obsessed loner. However, if you miss the heyday of Heinlein and Pohl (!) and the others, this is the book for you.

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