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on 9 March 2001
There has been one really nice thing about both Frederik Pohl entries in the SF Masterworks series - they are good old-fashioned stories that I understand, with no bizarre concepts or abstractions for me to get my head round. However, that in no way diminishes their brilliance or their impact - this was a gripping read from start to finish, that had me laughing on some occasions and almost crying on others. What person could read this book and not feel the pain and suffering inflicted on Roger in the name of science ? When Roger realises that he is the next candidate for the Man Plus project, his terror is both palpable and understandable - who among us would not react the same way ? There is only one thing about the book that makes it less than perfect - the problem of the computers. Pohl refers to complex, room sized IBM's (of which only two exist in his entire United States), and the problem of providing even moderately powerful mobile computers for the mission to Mars. That may have been reality in the 60's and 70's, but it's a bit laughable to those of us who live amongst laptops and Palm Pilots, and detracts from the feel of the future the author is trying to convey. Still, it's a minor quibble, and the gobsmacking surprise of an ending more than makes up for it. All in all, a brilliant addition to the 'man on Mars' idea.
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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2004
Having read my first Frederik Pohl; "Jem" earlier this year, I was keen to read more, and Man Plus doesn't disappoint. It's a precursor to many more recent Martian novels and unlike the Barsoomian nonsense of Edgar Rice Burroughs which I read as a boy, or the politically intense Kim Stanley Robinson, Man Plus explores the individual cost and emotional journey of a single Martian colonist. It really is a unique and clever approach, with Mars itself being relegated to a supporting role in the story. Pohl handles the alien [as a concept] very well and there's an overarching strangeness and a sense of isolation to this novel that could only be conjured by a writer with a soul, for which, I can only admire him.
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on 21 August 2000
This really is a well written and entertaining book.
Set in the near future in a world living under the shadow of a world war, the race is well and truly on to colonise Mars with the political orientation of the Americans very subtle and true. The politicians and Scientists are using technology to adapt a human for the rigours of living on Mars. Often refered to in the narrative as a 'monster' the human experiment is gradually altered in to a half human/machine - a cyborg - fully changed and prepared for life on another planet. We are taken under the skin of the main character and how he deals with the transformation and leaves his human side and family behind.
I felt that there were similarities to 'Frankenstein' in that human interferance and the gradual change into the 'monster' were fully addressed and also a vague memory of 'Robocop' with the human alterations still having a very human side to the whole story. There does also appear to be a dark humorous side to the novel as well - very tongue in cheek.
The Sci-fi masterworks has at the moment two classic releases by Pohl in its stable - certainly Man Plus and Gateway are superb examples of the Sci-fi genre. Another Must!
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on 17 November 2002
So many stories about Mars, particularly recent ones, are obsessed with terraforming the red planet. What Pohl does in this absorbing classic is turn that idea on its head, and have mankind surgically altered to suit Mars. With well-drawn characters, a page-turning pace and a fantastically sinister surprise ending, this is a thought-provoking tale. And Pohl takes little more than 200 pages to tell it (please take note, Kim Stanley Robinson, with your forest-stripping doorstep Martian trilogy). Two things amaze me: that Man Plus was written so long ago (in the 1970s), and that it hasn't been made into a major Hollywood movie. David Lynch, no stranger to the subject of physical deformity (maybe it should be "reformity" in this case), would do a great job.
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on 22 April 2012
In the final chapter, which is about three or four pages long, there is a twist which sets this entire book in context and made me think about rereading it immediately with this in mind. This is an achievement for sure, there's no question that this book is a classic even if this piece of narrative brilliance wasnt included but it really does make it worth reading to the sentence and will no doubt make for interesting discussion with any friends who've read it too.

The book itself is narrated in the third person, the characters central to the story are all introduced early on but the main protagonist does not begin in the role of the cyborg destined for Mars colonisation. I found this was a really great narrative trick although the pace and style of writing is good besides and the author does not have to rely upon tricks to keep a reader engaged with the story.

I dont know a lot about cybernetics, space exploration or the hard science aspects of the novel but this content is convincing and not fantastic or too wonderous, there are just enough details ommitted to make the crazy surgerical feats involved in making the protagonist "man plus" to make it seem feasible. One aspect of reading novels like this which depict a world of tommorrow that we are closer to being in than the author was at the time of writing is discovering what innovations and developments they anticipated correctly and what they did not, for instance everyone does have the means to communicate via video calls but there are no mobile phones, these are phones like the home appliances, and folding screen covers provide privacy rather than minimising pictures as is possible with a laptop appliance in reality. While the author has anticipated flying cars, automated transport, some innovations in garage car storage they imagine a world in which everyone smokes, even in hospitals, and as I've said no one has mobile communications (car phones exist but are more like CB radios).

There is more character development than world building but both are done really well, the world of the future anticipates things such as China's rise in prominance, there is a kind of internet functioning in that computers are networked but the characterisation is what I found the greatest. This is a very humane and humanising tale, the psychological aspects of it are great, one candidate perishes as a result of psychological pressure, or at least it is implied and a mainstay of the story is how Roger, the man plus subject, adapts to his transformation. It is a brilliant tale from this perspective and I would recommend it to anyone as a result, not just fans of science fiction.

Its not unreasonable to mention Frankenstein perhaps but this isnt a tale of mad science and alienation in quite the same way, the pace and style of writing is pretty different too. Recommended.
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on 24 August 2013
The other favourable reviewers here already described the plot of this first rate little book very well so to avoid duplication I just add this.

Even if 40 year old science fiction is not what you would normally think of reading, this book could be worth trying.

It is the story of how an astronaut, a man called Roger Torroway,'s body is rebuilt to be able to survive on Mars. This may sound like yet another of the many immitations of the 'Frankenstein's Monster' myth, of a thinking machine created by human science that risks getting out of control of its creators. In a way it is, although by the end of the book we discover that the real Frankenstein's Monster is not Roger Torroway but something else, which is not actually malevolent but is deviously concerned for itself and not its human creators.

The story ends with some questions and plot strands resolved, some unresolved and an unexpected new mystery. However, the story seems somehow meant to end like this and I do not think the author himself had further answers in his mind at the time.

The author did co-write a sequel many years later called Mars Plus that at time of writing no one has reviewed on Four people have reviewed it on the American but all but one found it disappointing and say that the sequel does not spend much time on the questions raised or characters left at the end of Man Plus anyway. The only favourable review seems to refer to another of the author's books and to have been posted there accidentally.

It is therefore probably best that we accept that the story ends here, with Roger Torroway, his mostly robotic body able to experience the Martian surface unconfined by a space suit, looking up through the thinner Martian atmosphere with enhanced senses at familiar and unfamiliar stars, knowing it may be best that he is never reunited with his beloved wife Dorrie back on Earth, to whom he now appears a metallic monster.

This is the first science fiction novel I have read for more than 20 years. I tried it because I liked a short story by the same author Frederick Pohl in a compilation of otherwise very varying interest by different authors The Mammoth Book of Alternate Histories (Mammoth Books). [Should you wish to know, Pohl's story in that book is called 'Waiting for the Olympians' and set in an alternative history in which the Roman Empire survived to the present day and now has a space exploration programe. Christianity never got going as a religion because a merciful Roman Governor pardoned Jesus and deprived him of martyrdom.]
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on 9 July 2003
In a Science Fiction novel, humanity is often measured by the fall of empires and the turn of the galactic wheel. Man Plus focuses on humanity as it affects an individual. The sheer joy, and indeed sometimes great sadness, of this novel comes from the emotions pounding through Tarraway as he journeys from man to "man plus". We see how it affects his family and his friends, and we see how his actions affect them.
The story of whether or not Tarraway succeeds in becoming adapted for Martian life is handled with panash by a writer whose simple yet eloquent style I have come to admire, but as is often the case it is the journey to that end that is the most rewarding part. And in this novel that reward is high indeed.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2005
Man plus comes as the forebear to many novels about the colonisation of alien worlds. Although this book is far more political in its content than many others. It would have been very easy to immerse the story in the buildup of political tension occuring in the unimpossible future of Earth, just as it could have been very easy to allow Mars swallow the story entirely and in fact turn it into a fictional account of adapting to the environment of another world (try Ben Bova for such reading). However Man Plus looks at the personal and individual costs of beginning a colonisation.
As a volunteer for the Man Plus programme Roger must be stripped of his humanity, the flesh that identifies him and even his very perceptions of reality as he is remade to be a new life form. Through this the novel allows glimpses of both Roger's inner torment as well political debates that the team that must manufacture him face.
In some ways I wish that there had been more of Mars in this novel, as it is relegated to just two short chapters. Though the big point about this novel isn't about how man will live on Mars, it is about what he must face before he can live there. A very intelligent piece of science fiction.
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on 14 June 2016
They say never judge a book by its cover, but I did in this case and I'm so glad I decided to buy it. Easily one of the best novels, science fiction or otherwise that I have ever read. Really could not put this book down. Pohl's narrative is outstanding here. Very cinematic. I love the inclusion of the 'Carmarthenshire Freedom Fighters'! Kept me on my toes till the very last page. Definitely a 'Masterwork' for me.
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on 18 September 2012
I enjoyed this book. The story was good, and it was well-written. However, compared with modern sci-fi, it felt dated- I always felt I was reading a book set in the 1970s rather than the future. This is largely because of the changes Pohl failed to predict, for example:
- Moore's law. Computers are the size of rooms.
- Sexual equality. Wives and nurses are pretty and "screwable", open-marriages are the norm, a militant feminist from 'fem' magazine refers to the historical 'lib' movement.
- The smoking ban: doctors and nurses puff away with gay abandon.

Obviously with hindsight it's easy to criticise off-the-mark predictions, and the factual science mentioned is good (I learned a fair bit about Mars, human psychology and physiology).

If you can appreciate it for its time (or if you are not bothered by outdated sci-fi concepts) it is well worth reading.
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