There was a period when I was in college — a glorious period — when I discovered Pohl and read nothing but a steady stream of his work for months. It was great. His stories captivated me, his ideas were imaginative, and my homework probably suffered a little. As I’m remembering him this week, I thought I might share what would be some of my favorite novels and stories of his in case people less familiar with him and his work might want to try some.
And remember, as Pohl has said, “Nothing is so good that somebody, somewhere will not hate it.”
Gateway. This one won all the awards back in the day, and deserved to. It’s one of my favorite novels and has it all: lost alien civilization, mystery, astronomical adventure, high personal stakes, and a devastating climax that hits hard. I have to say that I read the sequels, but kind of wish I hadn’t. Too many mysteries were eventually revealed and too many events undercut emotionally in later books.
The Space Merchants (in collaboration with Cyril M. Kornbluth). The horrors of capitalism run amok and businesses unchecked. There’s a scene in the movie Minority Report that gives a flavor, when the Tom Cruise character is beset by personalized ads chasing him down a street. This novel was prescient, haunting, and moving.
Man-Plus. Cyborgs on Mars! Except this isn’t is tale of exploration of a planet with technology, but a deep exploration about what it means to be human in the face of literally being rebuilt as something no longer obviously human. This book made me think a lot.
“Day Million” is a very short story full of invention and in many ways decades ahead of its time, reflecting its time and an infinite future as well. A tour-de-force that is impressive in so many ways. It’s for free online here, and you can probably read it in the time it would take to read a typical blog entry. If you’ve never read it before, what are you waiting for? Day million?