The Other End of Time, Frederik Pohl

Tor, 1996, 348 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-812-53519-7

Frederik Pohl is surely one of the most professional SF writer in the business today. He regularly turns out book after book of rarely great, but always competent fiction. His latest, The Other End of Time, won’t win him any awards, but will surely entertain legions of his fans.

The first hundred page of the novel are almost a remake of his previous novel The Cool War : An unpleasant future (2031), where people routinely carry an assortment of weapons, Florida is trying to separate and where inflation runs a 2-3% a day.

We meet the two principal characters: Dan Dannerman, secret agent sent to spy on his rich cousin Patricia Adcock. A few dozen pages of the usual urban SF later, five humans are abducted by aliens and the novel shifts tone entirely. The next hundred pages or so are a sort of prison drama, where our five -no, seven!- protagonists try to outwit their captors. This is the best part of the book, being focused in terms of action and characters.

The conclusion is a letdown, however, as things happen in random order and no real progress is made. The end comes so abruptly that one wonders if Pohl was just tired of the novel and decided to end it as quickly. as possible, while letting himself just enough leeway for a sequel.

Pohl’s style is what we have come to expect from him: Quick and efficient, but not without a certain streamlined elegance. The pace is uneven, but everything can be disposed of in a few hours.

Hard-SF fans and atheists will be displeased at the casual usage of a plot device that appears much more magical than anything else. The implication of the “duplicator” device is well thought-of, even if I feel that more could have been done with it.

Overall, The Other End of Time feels more than the first salvo in a series of galactic adventures than a particularly entertaining stand-alone. Aimed at Pohl fans, mostly.

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