Saturday, May 22, 2010

The $6-billion cyborg

It has Bcome necessary 2 tell U about Frederik Pohl's 1976 science-fiction novel MAN PLUS. It's pretty clever. We liked this novel. We liked the sly tone in which it was written. We liked the know-it-all 3rd-person-omniscient narrators. We liked the happy Nding.
MAN PLUS is the step-by-step story of how astronaut Roger Torraway gets molded in2 the 1st man who can live unaided on the surface of the planet Mars. The cyborg-ized Roger Bcomes the 1st step in establishing a human colony on the Red Planet.
But in order 2 do that, Roger undergoes a series of surgeries that leave him looking like some kinda gargoyle -- w/ big, bulging eyes & bat-like wings upon his back.
It's not EZ. But Roger's a good, solid, strong, tough guy. He can adjust. He can handle the pain & stress.
As it turns out, all his friends & co-workers on the Man Plus project R good, solid, strong people 2. They give him a lotta support. Even the guy who's secretly sleeping w/ Roger's wife.
This is an intresting novel in terms of texture. It's almost Dceptively simple, involving, strait-4ward, low-key, Blievable & realistic thruout. There R only a coupla places where Pohl mayB shifts in2 melodrama 2 goose the plot along just a little bit. The rest could almost B an episode from that old TV show "The Six Million Dollar Man." Only better.
& summa the lines R laff-out-loud funny. Like what the changed Roger says in response 2 his estranged wife's reaction after Roger unXpectedly climbs in thru her bedroom window.
Or when the President offers 2 kick any ass that gives Roger a hard time.
We had read this novel 2wice B4 & weren't that impressed -- when it 1st was serialized in THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION in early 1976 we were carried along but got kinda bored. We needed more action in R SF back then, more fireworks. We re-read the book in paperback in the early '90s & were impressed by the sly tone & by the strong characterization, but were still kinda unNthusiastic. + we didn't really "get" the Nding.
This reading, however, rang the bell. Perhaps it's taken us 30+ yrs 2 appreciate the subtleties at work here. MayB we've just read more.
We don't think this is Pohl's best novel -- his book GATEWAY, issued a yr after MAN PLUS, is still R choice 4 the author's best work, & is among the top dozen-or-so SF novels ever, we feel. But this is pretty impressive work, in its subtle, low-key, sly way.
The Science Fiction Writers of America musta thot so, 2 -- they gave MAN PLUS the Nebula Award 4 best SF novel of its yr.
We were just grateful 4 the happy Nding. & there's an Xtra kicker at the Nd when the know-all 3rd-person-omniscient narrators R finally revealed. + there's room 4 a sequel, which we assume Pohl was never planning 2 write....
Pohl here makes novel-writing look almost effortlessly EZ, which we trust it is not. But mayB we should give it a try....

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