A steed of a start... followed by horse apples (2/5)
From April 6, 2010
Man Plus (1976) or Gateway (1977). However, Pohl seems to have led himself astray with
this one-off novel like he did with another one-off novel in the 1980s:
Syzygy (1982). Both flopped.
Rear cover synopsis:
"When a mysterious
alien spacecraft approaches the Earth and demands to speak with the
President of the United States, then destroys a large Pacific island to
demonstrate its strength and its seriousness, you'd expect the President
to talk. Problem is, in the late twenty-first century, there is no
President--not even a United States. China rules the Americas, and to
most people 'US' and 'USSR' are just quaint abbreviations in historical
dictionaries. But the aliens prove unreasonable about accepting
substitutes. So one Anglo rice-cultivator from the Heavenly Grain
Collective farm near Biloxi, Mississippi is forced to begin an adventure
that will take him from peasant to President, from Pettyman to
Black Star Rising has a noble start: "It's
the late twenty-first century. The USA and USSR have destroyed each
other in a catastrophic nuclear exchange, and China now rules the
Americans." The reader is introduced to a Caucasian workforce in Alabama
who are restricted to the farm in which they work. Castor has
discovered a human head in the rice fields and is called to the city to
deliver his testimony. He becomes embroiled with the Han-descended
Police Inspector, the many-minded Professor, and the affairs dealing with
a mysterious object approaching Earth. The start is fairly good and
lays a great foundation for a prospectively good novel...
inevitably the novel must continue. Behind this dignified steed of a
novel's start there only follows a long trail of steaming horse apples.
Once the "American Cabinet" arrives on alien soil (named World), the plot
quickly loses steam with many pages of doubletalk terminology and a
bizarre, out-of-the-blue plot twist with its ridiculous self-contained
history. What follows is a sexual romp for a small cast of characters
parallel to the politicking of people from Earth and the people of
World. There are no bombshells dropped in plot (steady as she goes),
there is no character enrichment (like a placid lake of boredom) and
even the ending receives a shrug of whatever! One more additional
observance includes the annoying overuse of the word "fool" and the gratuitous use of exclamation points in the internal bickering within the Professor.
It's one of those shoulder-shrugging books which the reader wades through, tests the water, comes out the other side reasonably unscathed, and ultimately forgets ever wading through the placid waters in the first place. It's been two years since I read this novel (now May 2012) and I couldn't remember one aspect about it without reading my prior review. It's a forgettable novel because of its mundaneness and aimlessness, not because it's irritating from cover to cover like Man Plus, Syzygy, or Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (1980). Pohl obviously isn't one of my favorite novel-length authors, but he has a prolific amount of short stories which seem to impress me from time to time, such as in The Man Who Ate the World (1960), Midas World (1983), and Pohlstars (1984). Stick to these shorter works and witness the greatness of Pohl through the decades.