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Starburst Mass Market Paperback – June 12, 1986


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Del Rey (June 12, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345339282
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345339287
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,369,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST
The crew of the Constitution--scientists cum astronauts--had been carefully screened for extremely high intelligence and superb physical qualities. They were to be the first explorers sent to another stellar system. There they would explore the planet Alpha-Aleph and then return. They were the toast of the world press--true heroes, for they were to go where no man had gone before.
Or so they thought.
Dr. Dieter von Knefhausen knew otherwise--for there was no planet, no place to go...and no place from which to return. Knefhuasen had planned it that way. Of course, Knefhausen realized his plan wasn't exactly ethical. But then, he knew the ends often justify the means.
And Knefhausen's plan worked better then even he had ever hoped!

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 16, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The idea behind this novel struck me as quite original, innovative, and promising. Four couples are selected to journey to a newly-discovered planet (dubbed Alpha-Aleph) orbiting Alpha Centauri and eventually return to earth as heroes. In actuality, there is no planet Alpha-Aleph to be explored, and the astronauts are not going to be coming back to earth at all. The man behind the mission is a German named Knefhausen, and he serves the President of the United States. There is nothing united about America, though; the president controls the area around Washington, D.C., while the rest of the nation is split up into fiercely divided autonomies controlled by diverse factions. Knefhausen has somehow convinced the astronauts that recreational advanced math is the most joyous way to spend an otherwise twenty-plus year space journey-the plan is for the astronauts to make some gigantic scientific discoveries which can be transmitted back to earth and put to use by the president in a bid to unite the country and restore true power to the presidency. The astronauts do indeed make some great theoretical and engineering leaps, but their interests and activities quickly turn toward carnal, philosophical, and other pursuits practically useless for Knefhausen's purposes. When the explorers discover that they have been hoodwinked into undertaking an unethical forced suicide mission, Knefhausen's plans go distinctly awry.
The increasingly tawdry (as well as ridiculously unbelievable) nature of the astronauts' accomplishments quickly neutralizes the interesting ideas Pohl puts forth. These eight space pioneers accomplish some amazing things on their own, yet carnal pursuits become so prevalent that their offspring begin having children of their own by the age of six or eight.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A cute, not-very-long novel about a journey to Alpha Centauri by 8 of Earth's best and brightest. Catch: the President has agreed to use them as guinea pigs for a genius-making experiment. They are sent to visit a planet that doesn't exist, knowing they can't return and will all die in space. But, on the journey, they will be forced to become super geniuses, and perhaps solve Earth's problems as a side-product! Silly, but somehow, Pohl pulls it off convincingly. Pohl's English is sometimes quaint (e.g., 'Januarys'), but his obvious attempt to study hard science and put it in his sci-fi in a popular form is commendable. As a work of literature ... forget it; cut-out characters, made to serve the sci-fi.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By M-I-K-E 2theD on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When the reviewers rave about how Starburst is full of Pohl's love for mathematics, it's only true on a few pages when they talk about prime numbers, Goldberg's Conjecture and a small bit of other maths. It's not an impressive amount... and since I AM a math teacher, I would reflect the love for math. Besides the math bit, physics is also presented upon the pages in various forms of traditional and hypothetical technologies. Pohl gets big points by writing a hard sci-fi book with all these sciences... but he loses big points, too, when he steers the entire plot towards sex. The women become baby-poppers and are lusted after by males- which fits Pohl's negative view of women from his other novels. As soon as the plot thickens (at the same time the math falls behind), it also starts to fall apart at the seams. Such beautiful seams they were, it's too bad it went in the direction it did. Thankfully, because of the rich display of technologies I managed to semi-enjoy reading it to the end.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Craig Duncan on October 1, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this novel nearly 2 decades ago. While only a vague recollection of the plot remains with me, the sense of wonder I experienced from Pohl's idea of a "recreational math" program designed to provoke genius left a lasting impression.
One scene in particular stands out. The supergenius crew has made several revolutionary engineering advances (among them controlled fusion), but rather than just send them back to Earth, convert the document describing them to a very large number (via a real technique, "Godelization"), then, ingeniously and intuitively, rewrite the number as a short arithmetic expression: (3.875*12^26)! + 1973^854 +331^852 + 17^2008 + 3^9606 + 2^88 - 78.
The idea that such a thing is possible contradicts information theory, and has provoked some interesting discussion among number theorists, who generally agree that it is not. That the original document was "tweaked" slightly provides just enough of a loophole that I've yet to make up my mind about it.
If you're a Math lover, even if you dislike science fiction, I highly recommend you find and read this book. Fred Pohl clearly loved Math, too.
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