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Jem by Frederik Pohl
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Dec 23, 09

bookshelves: speculative-fantastic-magical, 2009
Recommended for: fans of classic science fiction
Read in May, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 1

Part of my effort to get through all the old science fiction sitting on the shelf.

Prior to this, I read one of Pohl's short stories, "Day Million," and really enjoyed his witty approach. Stylistically and conceptually "Jem" hits a lot of the same notes and is really not a bad book overall. The characters are very human, with all the flaws and virtues necessary to make them interesting. The way in which the various country blocs vie for control of the planet, nicknamed Jem, is entirely believable, as are the difficulties faced by the first settlers. Some of the most interesting portions, however, are told through the viewpoint of the indigenous species; Pohl manages to put us in an alien headspace and explores what sentience or intelligence might mean on other worlds.

Certain passages held my attention less than others--not really extraneous, but he seemed unable to sustain the tone that pulled me through the first few chapters. My other issue is the datedness of the Cold War politics. This is really one of those old SF works in which you have to keep putting yourself in that timeframe, which diminishes its ability to speak completely to the current context.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed where Pohl cleverly went with the story in the end and his willingness to experiment with different viewpoints to tell a story. I would still recommend it, with the caveat that it speaks more to a certain political climate in history than the current world. For me the most interesting speculations were on human colonization of other worlds and extraterrestrial life.
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Reading Progress

01/21/2009 page 74
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