Monday, July 27, 2009

The Boy Who Would Live Forever

The Boy Who Would Live Forever is the fifth novel in the Heechee Saga by Frederick Pohl. And being the fifth of its kind, it is very much like watching the third sequel of Jurrasic Park or Mission Impossible. The author really has nothing new to say and is perhaps writing in the hope that people who liked the other Heechee novels would buy this one too because it’s a Heechee novel.

Nothing much really happens in the story. The plot itself is insipid. Wan, the orphan boy who’d been found by the Harter-Hall party has become very rich and slightly psychotic. He is hell bent on taking revenge with the Heechee, for what reason, it’s not very clear. And in the end people manage to stop him from destroying the Heechee in the core. Neat.

Having finished reading the entire series, I believe there are serious flaws in the world that Pohl has imagined. One, there is a complete absence of politics in this world. The main organizational entities in the galaxy seem to be space exploration companies. These companies seem completely independent of any government control (which is the capitalist idea that might just be plausible) and also infinitely fair and just in the way they carry out their affairs (which seem a lot less likely). Individuals with capital seem to be in complete control of everyone’s life, without any public support at all.

Even economy-wise, there are severe flaws. Wealth almost always seems to correspond to material wealth. Energy and information don’t seem to be commodities at all. Information wasn’t a commodity in Pohl’s time, yes, but energy very much was, he should have figured that in. For example, the machine intelligences in his stories own themselves if they own their hardware. What about the energy to run this hardware? Who own the ‘bits’ or the software of these machine AIs?

But the first few books who didn’t deal too much with machine life or with the Heechee themselves were good. Starting the series is highly recommended, just stop when you start getting bored.


  1. ok. So it's Peter Pan in a different setting. and if there's no politics, why is it such a bad thing to imagine a world without one? :)

  2. Because it isn't a world without politics. You have corporations that control everything. You have individuals owning enormous resources. You're bound to have politics. The author is ignoring it on purpose or just being plain lazy. Or he's writing a capitalist utopia which doesn't really exist in real life.

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