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All the Lives He Led: A Novel Hardcover – April 12, 2011

2.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a tired, terrorist-plagued 2079 still reeling from the aftereffects of a massive Yellowstone eruption, Brad Sheridan escapes from America's refugee camps by signing up for an overseas indenture. Chance earns him a spot working in Italy's lavish commemoration of the 2,000th anniversary of the destruction of Pompeii. Beneath quiescent Vesuvius, tourists enjoy entertainments real and virtual. Ben's ambition is limited to minor scams and romance, but fate places him near the epicenter of a terrorist plot of unprecedented scale. This seminihilistic novel, reminiscent of Mining the Oort and The Cool War, is not among Pohl's best only because the Grand Master's previous novels have set such a high standard, and it stands as a demonstration of his continuing strengths in the eighth decade of his career. (Apr.)
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"SFWA Grand Master Pohl's latest is a pure delight, miraculously combining wry adventure and compassionate satire…. His tempered, hard-won faith in humanity makes this book especially satisfying." (Publishers Weekly on The Boy Who Would Live Forever)

"Very few books have ever held my attention in such an iron grip right up until the last paragraph, built so irresistibly to such a satisfying series of blockbuster punch lines, left me so breathless with admiration, achieved such truly cosmic scope." (Analog on Beyond the Blue Event Horizon)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765321769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765321763
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,730,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Not quite fair to review a book before you've finished, but I don't think I'll ever see the end of this one.

Pohl never uses 4 words when 11 will do. A gaseous, golly gee gosh a rootie flavor coils about every sentence. I'm 1/3 of the way through the book, and only the central character is even sketched, a kind of English boy's school boy with an American tough kid back story, and there's no sense the author even cares that it's not plausible, or involving.

We should, by now, given how badly things are going in the writing department, be starting to get whiffs of flop sweat. Yet there's nothing but pure, uninflected blandness. Was Pohl on Xanax when he wrote this? Is there some kind of sadistic, passive aggressive subtext? Doesn't this man have an editor?
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Format: Hardcover
Is this the same author who wrote "Heechee"? Well, technically it is. And Frederik Pohl is still a storyteller. Some anecdotes he provides are indeed amusing. But that is where the resemblance ends.

"All the lives he led" is a book which aspires to teach you something, and fails. This book gives the impression it attempts to be some fable, an allegory to nowadays lives. By itself, this is OK. However it leaves too many open threads, unanswered issues, and (it must be said) many holes in the plot, to give the reader the one thing a book must deliver - it is not a good read.

I did force myself to read it through, mostly due to the great respect I have for Pohl's previous work. I'm afraid this was not time well spent.
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Format: Hardcover
The explosion of the Yellowstone volcano instantly turned the United States into a poor country filled with refugees. Those who survived became refugees, often indentured to pay their debts. Brad Sheridan, one of those refugees, is working in Italy in a Disneyland version of Pompei, serving bad wine to rich tourists from Asia, Europe, and parts of America not destroyed by the eruption when he meets and falls in love with Gerda. Gerda is special, full of life, but she has a secret--one that soon has Brad in trouble with security.

In author Frederik Pohl's near-future story, it isn't just the Yellowstone volcano that causes suffering. Terrorists seem intent on destroying nearly everything, each group pursuing some cause that seems noble to them, seems even to justify the deaths of innocents. And security has reason to believe that the recent outbreak of what is called Pompeian Flu is not a natural disease but a deadly bio-terrorist attack--one with which Brad seems to be involved--whether intentionally or not.

Pohl's world of terrorism is intriguingly complex. Brad is both a willing informant to security but also a man deeply in love with someone who clearly is not just a terrorist but who is involved with something that may kill millions. Security has extraordinary powers they use without much discrimination--but also has officers who try to do the right thing and who even care about the people they hurt. And Pohl's vision of an America virtually destroyed by a natural disaster is the perfect vehicle to remind us that extreme poverty changes everything.

Although, ultimately, I found ALL THE LIVES HE LED to be intriguing and insightful, this story took a long time getting started. As a con-man and seller of recycled wine, Brad isn't very interesting.
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By BarryR on December 19, 2015
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read about 125 pages and only reached that because I really like the early Pohl.
We have a constantly repeated description of an indentured person. A result of a blast in Yellowstone. I'm not sure if the idea that the blast wasn't detected early was meant to be a slight on scientists. Descriptions of real & virtual characters that never went anywhere. Totally ho hum.
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Format: Hardcover
"All the Lives He Led" starts with a great premise, but ultimately needs a great editor / story doctor. Others mentioned lack of a plot - it almost seemed as though Mr. Poole put his efforts into the book's central idea and then started writing to see where the story would take him. This is the GREAT Frederik Pohl so I kept thinking something amazing was just around the bend on this ambling and confused tale. That is just not the case...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The premise of this book is exciting! Then you read it and realize it's barely worth remembering. A volcano in Yellowstone blows up, the scene switches to Pompeii for the two thousand year celebration of Mt. Vesuvius's 79 A.D. eruption. What a start! What's going to happen next? The answer is pretty much nothing. I know Frederik Pohl is a science fiction grand master, but he drops the ball with this novel because he fails to run with the idea and create a classic novel.

The empathy I felt for the characters was nil. There wasn't any character development for any of the book's participants. Basically, the book is another terrorist motif inspired novel set in the year 2079. The story's main characters: Brad Sheridan, Brian Bossert, a.k.a. Gerda Fleming go through some interesting times working for the Pompeii theme park, but fail to excite the reader. The security people of the park and elsewhere seem to be omniscient-like without any validation of their powers. The theme park itself becomes less desirous when you learn that most of the park is actually virtual reality.

What happened in America after the Yellowstone eruption is left to the imagination. Mr. Pohl lets the reader know that America is no longer a super-power and the dollar is almost worthless, but that's it! We know people like Brad Sheridan indentured themselves to countries in Europe, but not why. It seems to me that more time should have been spent on the events after the U.S.A. eruption to set the seed for the exodus of Americans to Europe. Why would they sell themselves with a bond to pay off?

Then we have the issue of the Pompeii Flu. The pernicious virus seems to have originated from the "Stans" of Russia. These are the new countries that separated from Russia and became criminal safe havens.
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