Top positive review
Not quite up to Pohl's usual standard
on 1 March 1999
I think some of the other reviewers have been overly harsh. I rarely find myself praising Pohl's books highly, with the exception of the Heechee series, but I do feel he is a reasonably good writer. I found this book quite readable, though the time the main human characters spent in confinement was perhaps a little too long from the point of view of pace. I think Pohl had good reasons for putting that section in, however, as it enabled some exploration of issues such as multiple identity - an area he could have gone into more deeply. What I find most interesting about the book is his use of the Tipler thesis - I read the Physics of Immortality a couple of years ago (The math is very heavy going, and I'm really not qualified to judge whether it's feasible). Again, that is something I think perhaps we could have had more of.
On the whole, I think that this book could certainly have been better - a bit more exploration of the issues would have been nice, though I suspect that may be covered later on in the trilogy. The characters are a little thin, I suppose - this is one of those areas where Pohl seems oddly variable. However, they are not so thin as to be a serious obstacle.
I do have some quibbles with the economic & social background, such as the picture of America living with hyper-inflation: It seems unlikely to me that anyone would put up with it for long. Also, for a story set some 30-40 years in the future, it sometimes seems as if the technology of the time is more like the present. But these are not real obstacles to the enjoyment of the story.
A couple of revieweers commented about the ending being very sudden. Well, yes, I suppose it is, but not unjustifiably so. I am reminded of the ending of Gateway, where the climax came & went in a single page - for me that worked fantastically - it was right for that book, and left an image in my head that has lasted 20 years.
I feel this is a three & a half crown book really, so in light of some of the other reviews, I'm giving it four.
PS I am now halfway through The Siege of Eternity and so far finding it much more satisfying.