Feb 272012

Frederik Pohl

Pages: 347

Publisher: TOR

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Science Fiction


Brad Sheridan- Indentured worker at various places including Pompeii.  Family from Kansas, but displaced after Yellowstone Volcano eruption in 2062.

Professor and Piranha Woman-Two anti-terrorism agents at Pompeii

Maury- Water engineer and friend of Brad’s.

Gerda- Volunteer and romantically involved with Brad

The Bastard- Brad’s boss at Pompeii.  He earned his name very well.

Synopsis:  Brad Sheridan’s family fortunes changed dramatically in the 2062 explosion of the Yellowstone Volcano as well as the United State’s economy being buried under a food of ash.  For a time the world is thrown into chaos  but many places start to recover by the 2000th anniversary of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius and the burying of Pompeii in 2079.

Brad switches through a series of jobs that take him from selling counterfeit scrolls in Egypt to doing laundry in the newly renovated Pompei.  The people putting on the anniversary celebration have spared no expense to attract the richest people from around the world.  Parts of Pompeii have been rebuilt, but others have had holographic facelifts including animated Roman citizens.   Other characters are played by human workers and volunteers, including Brad  who sells wine to tourists.

As Brad is seduced by and eventually falls in love with one of the volunteers, an older lady named Gerda, the celebration is put in jeopardy by terrorist attacks.  Hoping that the horror of their attacks is multiplied by the world’s attention of the event.  Despite wanting to keep his nose clean and not make waves, Brad becomes a terrorism suspect.  and must struggle to clear his name and uncover the truth before the celebration is ruined and many people die.

Pro: Frederik Pohl is a legendary and award winning Science Fiction writer and is best known for his excellent Heechee Saga that begins with the 1977 novel Gateway.   All the Lives he Led is not on the grand scale of some of his other novels, but is more mellow and polished.  This is to be expected, because he was 92 when this was published.   I think that this book has some very strong aspects though;

  • Very believable and possible dystopia with terrorists attacks, extreme wealth, and poverty and debt.
  • The technology isn’t far fetched and things like the holograms are already becoming a reality today.
  • Brad reminds me of a the earthbound Robinette Broadhead in the Heechee series.
  • Some of the interrogations actually made me sweat.
  • Interesting view of gender issues.

Con: Even thought there was much to recommend the novel I had a few issues with it;

  • The love story doesn’t add up 100% because it seems a bit rushed, but that might be explained by youth and hopefulness.
  • All of the bad guys seem to be living alternative lifestyles and nobody else seems to.  This doesn’t seem to be a comment on those lifestyles, but is just a thing.

Conclusion: I  enjoyed this novel.  It is great to see that Pohl has developed into an even more nuanced writer in his later years and  I hope that he will continue writing for some time.  Maybe some of the technology he has written about will come to be and help prolong his writing years!

Frank’s Ratings


Characters 4
Plot 3
Imagery 4
Read Again? 4
Average 3.75

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