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All the Lives He Led: A Novel Hardcover – April 12, 2011
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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?
"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.
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. For much of the book, Brad's major story goal was getting into Gerda's bed and staying there--even if that meant cutting what he was able to send back home to help his refugee family in New York. Only in the final third of the book does the story really take off. For a lesser author than Pohl, I probably would have quit before then. There was a payoff for my patience, but it seemed that Pohl could have found a way to introduce a story goal earlier
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.
This one is a simple romance novel, with a sexual/gender quirk not very original, and pretty shallow too, really - it has glaring points where memory serves the reader to see the disjunctions, and the sloppy cover-ups
Oh wait - was i expecting literature? well, at least it's litter
A disappointing read, neither exciting, nor convincing, nor original, nor thought-provoking, nor useful - unless you are a dabbler and think ripples on the pond reveal all the depth there needs to be
One waits for the future, and if it is so mundane as this book, one would not be surprised, but still be disappointed in the banality of it
Re-read something you really liked rather than this
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Love Pohl, he always is good.
A main stay in the genre.
"All the Lives He Led" had the promise of an SF novel of Pohl authorship but disappoints as science fiction.Read more