Man Plus

I heard yesterday that Frederick Pohl died.

I’ve only read a couple of Pohl’s books but happliy found two of them still on my shelf (hopefully I can pass them on to my daughter if she develops an interest in sci-fi).

Frederic-Pohl_1976_ManPlus_Gateway

I haven’t read either book in years but have kept them because they were great books. I still remember the gist of each.

Roger Torraway of Man Plus is a retired astronaut involved in a government program to re-engineer a human being so they can survive unprotected on the surface of Mars. When the current candidate dies unexpectedly, Torraway must step up to the plate and allow the scientists and engineers to turn him into something more than human. His personal journey to retain his human feelings, hopes, and desires as his humanity is stripped away piece by piece in order to insure humanity’s survival is fascinating and imaginative (there’s also a nice twist at the end revealing who’s actually behind the Mars Man Plus project).

Bob Broadhead of Gateway is on a different sort of journey. A food miner on Earth just scraping by, he wins a lottery to Gateway, a space station built into a hollow asteroid by a vanished race known as the Heechee. Inside the asteroid are thousands of starships pre-programmed for destinations throughout the galaxy. The kicker is that no one knows which ship goes to which destination – a trip out could result in returning with a piece of alien technology that could make a prospector incredibly wealth or returning dead. The entire book, with chapters alternating between Roger’s time on Gateway and future conversations with his robotic therapist, leads up to the Roger’s last trip, a culmination of all his dreams and all his horrors.

Both books were written in the late ’70s (Man Plus in 1976; Gateway in 1977) so they’re probably a bit dated but I’m sure the ideas and the drama hold up. I should read them again when I’ve got the time

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