Frederik Pohl



464pp/$27.95/December 2005

Platinum Pohl
Cover by Corbis

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Frederik Pohl lives only about fifteen miles away from me, which means I often see him at science fiction conventions.  He is a soft-spoken man who is as much a fixture of those conventions as the dealer's room, the art show, or the panels at which he sits quietly, waiting for a chance to interject his incisive comments.  This familiarity with Pohl means it is sometimes easy to forget what he has done in order to be named one of the Grandmasters of the SFWA.  Fortunately, Platinum Pohl provides an excellent reminder of the scope of Pohl's writing.

It has been thirty years since The Best of Frederik Pohl was published, and although some of the stories from that volume are reprinted in Platinum Pohl, it is gratifying to see that Pohl has published so much more in the last thirty years that the new volume is not simply a reprint, although, of course, there is some overlap.

Pohl's satirical wit is on display in many of the stories, from his famous "The Merchants of Venus" to the extremely short "Creation Myths of the Recently Extinct," which takes a completely different look at Arthur C. Clarke's 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  However, while Pohl is known for his satire, his writing also has a dark, dystopian side, and this is also well represented in Platinum Pohl with stories like "Let the Ants Try" or "Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair."

Each story includes a brief introduction, apparently written, not by Pohl, but by the volume's editor, Jim Frenkel.  While this doesn't give the introductions the personal insight Pohl would have been able to present, it does allow Frenkel to present a more critical and historical view of Pohl's stories.  These introductions offer a nice addition to Pohl's own work, although they aren't necessary for the enjoyment of Pohl's writing.

The stories in Platinum Pohl are imaginative and though-provoking.  Taken en masse, the stories show some of Pohl's development as a writer, however since the stories are picked to represent some of his best and are not arranged in any semblance of chronological order, the progression demonstrated is not as useful as it might be.  

Platinum Pohl is not the definitive collection of Pohl's short fiction.  For that, we'll have to wait until a publisher decides to do for Pohl what Haffner Press has been doing for Jack Williamson, North Atlantic Press for Theodore Sturgeon, or Citadel for Philip K. Dick, a series of volumes presenting all of Pohl's short fiction from his debut until the modern day.  

The Merchants of Venus  Criticality
The Things That Happen Shaffery Among the Immortals Nebula Nominee
The High Test The Day the Icicle Works Closed
My Lady Green Sleeves Saucery
The Kindly Isle The Gold at the Starbow's End Nebula NomineeHugo Nominee
The Middle of Nowhere Growing Up in Edge City Nebula Nominee
I Remember a Winter The Knights of Arthur
The Greening of Bed-Stuy Nebula Nominee Creation Myths of the Recently Extinct
To See Another Mountain The Meeting (with C.M. Kornbluth) Hugo Winner
The Mapmakers Let the Ants Try
Spending a Day at the Lottery Fair Speed Trap
The Celebrated No-Hit Inning The Day the Martians Came
Some Joys Under the Star Day Million
Servant of the People Hugo Nominee The Mayor of Mare Tranq
Waiting for the Olympians Fermi and Frost Hugo Winner

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