Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Annals of the Heechee


The Annals of the Heeche is the fourth book in Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga. It narrates the story of Robinette Broadhead, sometime prospector and current billionaire as he galavants around the galaxy trying to keep the Foe – enemies of this universe – at bay.

The first thing that this book reminded me was the Ender books by Orson Scott Card. The first reason is the significant role that machine intelligences play in both Heechee and Ender. Machine intelligences don’t come into play in the first Ender book, but from the second book on, Jane, a mysterious AI who becomes Ender’s companion for life. Similarly, Robinette Broadhead in Annals of the Heechee has several AI companions who are a significant part of his life.

The second way that it reminded me of the Ender books is the way it deals with the aliens – the other. Ender’s story begins with a complete othering of the aliens. They are mysterious, unknown and threatening. There seems to be no way at all of understanding or communicating with them. Indeed, human being must exterminate the aliens in order to even survive. And this remains so till almost the very end of the story when with a classic twist in the tale, the other becomes understandable, negotiable and even amiable. The same occurs with the Annals of the Heechee. In the beginning, the Foe remain mysterious and deadly but only at the very end is their secret revealed and they become understandable and even benevolent in some sense.

What struck me as amusing is that the characters in the Heechee saga seem to be the realization of common geek fantasies. A spouse who is an expert programmer AND breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention Russian with a cute way of speaking English? A best friend who is a cheeky computer program in the likeness of Albert Einstien? Mr. Pohl most definitely knows how to pull the strings of the geek heart. :)

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