A Year of Classic Science Fiction Books #2

man-plusI couldn't stop. Completed four more science fiction classics since the last article. These three were worth extra notice:

Man Plus (1976): By Frederik Pohl, whose writing style I greatly enjoy and may seek out some of his other works (see below). An ongoing cold war that threatens to heat up has convinced America that the only hope for humanity (and America) is to settle Mars. Unfortunately, the 'stock' human is not all that suitable to the task, which sets in motion a herculean effort to jury-rig one through a series of surgeries, cybernetic implants/replacements, and behavioral modifications. The story mostly follows the viewpoint of the character being adapted to life on Mars. A great story with a twist at the end. 

Gateway (1977): Another by Frederick Pohl. Gateway is a space station left behind by an alien civilization (the Heechee). On the space station the Heechee have left behind several dozen operating ships, each programmed to travel to a single destination. Only problem is... nobody living knows how to use the ships (other than how to get them moving) and where the destinations are set to. They learn by doing and dieing. Pohl weaves this and other observations into a story centering on a single individual who decides to seek his destiny in the stars.

The Dispossessed (1974): By Ursula K. Le Guin. I was no stranger to Le Guin, having read the Earthsea Books and Left Hand of Darkness but WOW, some deep thinking on political systems here... and I like it. The story thoughtfully hits on anarchism, capitalism, individualism and collectivism, providing readers with much to think on. Protagonist Shevek is a physics genius living on Anarres, a moon of Urras. Anarres is inhabited by anarchist revolutionaries who left capitalist Urras generations before to settle on the sparse moon. Shevek's accomplishments in physics result in his being the first of the revolutionaries to make a trip back to Urras. Comparisons & conflict ensue. Chapters alternate between planets. Also interesting to note that it's part of a 'cycle' of books by Le Guin called the Hainish Cycle. Since I've only read two out of the six, it added four more books to my 'to do' list.

Edited in 2013 to add:

The Book of Skulls (1972) - By Robert Silverberg. Four college students find an ancient manuscript that details an order of monks who have achieved immortality, and how they can join the order. One catch, during the initiation two of the four must die, before immortality will be bestowed on the other two. Chapters alternate between perspectives of each of the four very different college students. 

The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith - A posthumous collection of short stories written at various times before 1966. They all take place in the Instrumentality of Mankind, Cordwainer's vision of the future. Interesting stories detailing an imaginable future where an aristrocratic world government takes care of all humankind's needs, at the expense of freedom and individuality... and the gradula breakdown of same.

Earth Abides (1949) - By George R. Stewart. A post-apocalyptic vision of the future and the rebuilding of the human race. Little to no focus on the combat and depravity featured in most post-apocalytpic works. Heavy detail of the inevitable return of nature to dominance and the gradual return to tribal communities, from an archeological/sociological viewpoint. A very interesting read.