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Topic: Book Review
I like Fred Pohl's books generally speaking. JEM, GATEWAY, MAN PLUS, and THE SPACE MERCHANTS were great, fun, reads. Fred Pohl is a prototypical science fiction writer with a career spanning the Golden Age, the "New Era" and onward. His fiction usually revolves around an interesting idea (For instance, what if ancient aliens left behind an orbital with a host of exploration vessels capable of jumping into space, but nobody knows exactly where they are going?) Alas, it would seem that his output has declined in the last decade or so, though the penchant for a single cool idea is still present.
So when I picked up THE OTHER END OF TIME at the library (Audio Version, Cassette, Books on Tape) I had reasonable expectations. This is Fred Pohl, after all. THE OTHER END OF TIME is the first book in a series called Eschaton (the moment the universe collapses, when everyone who has ever lived will be reborn and live for eternity). Pretty heady concept.. but the execution in the first novel is glacial. The future is dystopic, economies on the brink of collapse. There's a wide gap between haves and have-nots in this future. A government agent is sent to spy on a space mission to a derelict satellite. He, and the rest of the mission, are kidnapped by aliens, taken through a dimensional portal, and held captive in a featureless 'no space" for a looong time. Much of the book takes place during this captivity. We learn there is a galactic war going on over "The Eschaton" (the universe collapse/rebirth thing), their captors might be good guys, bad guys or indifferent guys. They escape at the end, and that's about the sum total of the plot.
Interesting plot points (the big Pohl idea): instead of travelling someplace physically, the aliens use a tachyon transmitter to send digitized copies of beings instead. The hangup of course, is that you leave a perfect copy of yourself (or is it the original?) behind.
SIEGE OF ETERNITY takes up about five minutes behind the first novel. Pohl focuses most of his efforts on portraying an unrepentantly selfish world dealing with an unprecedented crisis. His world is politically unstable, with widespread terrorism, runaway inflation and rampant crime. Even most of the likable characters are more concerned with personal gain than with the larger problems of dealing with the alien threat, which doesnt seem to be taken seriously, at least inthis novel. Pohl is also very effective at presenting the Horch and Scarecrows as aliens, rather than funny looking humans.
SIEGE OF ETERNITY does pick up the pace quite a bit for all of that, and has given me the impetus I needed to finish the story.