Review: BIPOHL by Frederik Pohl

“How long the party lasted Forrester did not know. He remembered a long harangue in which the drunken ballet dancer was trying to explain to him that the accent was Martian, not German; something to do with six-hundred-millibar oxyhelium air, which got them out of the habit of hearing certain frequencies.”
~Frederik Pohl, The Age of the Pussyfoot

Plot summary

The Age of the Pussyfoot: Charles Forrester was out of the deepfreeze. It had taken several centuries to bring him back to life. But what a life it was! The 26th Century offered pleasure at the flip of a button – everything from gourmet food to stupendous sex right there for the asking. And for a rich man like Forrester, the possibilities of delight were endless. Of course, everything else was endless too. But by the time Forrester realized that he had had enough of a good thing – even too much! – he realized that he would somehow have to kill himself if he were ever to survive! It was the Age of the Pussyfoot.

Drunkard’s Walk: Cornut was a master teacher – respected, successful, his life well rewarded in past accomplishments and rich in the promise of achievements to come. Yet he was waging a bitter battle with a savage, bewildering drive to self-destruction. But when he really began to probe the reasons for his ‘madness’, the battle with himself became insignificant beside the power his new information could release. If he could live that long…” More on Goodreads

On author profile, check out the review for The Gateway from February 2017.

BIPOHL by Frederik Pohl. Photo: fictivestina
BIPOHL by Frederik Pohl. Photo: fictivestina
Key concepts
  • How to cope in a changed environment
  • Death in its many forms and perks
  • Vivid details of the far future

Frederik Pohl captures the heart of the reader with a vivid imagination. It’s like being asleep for a few decades and waking up in a candy store with all kinds of new candy options you were not previously familiar with. Or similarly, you could also wake up somewhere not too distant, say in a different culture where you don’t speak the local language. How would you cope and what’s your method of action?

In the first story, The Age of the Pussyfoot, we have a somewhat typical product of the 20th century – a deep-frozen man named Charles Forrester – and he finds out nothing is really what it used to be. In 2527, the people surrounding him, gadgets, and basically everything is different. And this does not only apply to physical features but to societal norms, standards and family relations as well. So Charles is like an elephant in a china store, unable to function according to the specific needs and standards of the time.

The Age of the Pussyfoot. Photo: CHRIS DRUMM / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The Age of the Pussyfoot. Photo: CHRIS DRUMM / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Charles in an old product. He bases his decisions and modes of action on mechanisms he was used to before his death in the 20th century. He is very male and his liking of alcohol and reckless behavior make him seem like a bit-of-a jerk with shallow interests etc. But, we grow to like him and the story is also a learning curve. Charles comes to the realization that he must change and use his knowledge and expertise from gone times to his benefit against the chaotic and mysterious future he now occupies.

An interesting layer of the story lies in the conceptualization of death and what it means. The infinity of death is no longer applicable. Death has become simply a phase of life, possible to repeat as many times and as far as money can take. The stunning death licensing and the possibility to kill others for money is among one of the most absurd ideas in the story.

Pohl offers a viable adventure into what things could be like, even in an absurd way – a potential but unlike future scenario. The Age of the Pussyfoot is above all a tale on how to acquaint one in an unfamiliar environment, how to act and what to decide. But the story is also one man’s coming-of-death tale, a survival story. The concepts and issues portrayed in the story are over-the-top for what we – people from the 21st century – would consider feasible. But hey, where does it say that scenarios need to be feasible and implementable? I guess nowhere really 🙂

Pohl manages to open options and keep the reader fascinated with things one might not even have come up with. Reading The Age of the Pussyfoot is like going on a priceless adventure journey free of charge. That’s how good the story is.

In Drunkard’s Walk, at first what seems more ordinary and regulated than in the further future in The Age of the Pussyfoot, this realization comes rumbling down as soon as the curtain is removed. This time the sidekick, a cute but pale math teacher Cornut, goes on a self-exploratory tour after he cannot stop trying to commit suicide. This in itself is too hilarious.

In the year 2196, this science geek Cornut who in the end finally gets the girl, finds out something that is behind everything in the society and the world of his time.

I liked both death-related stories with a preference on the first one, The Age of the Pussyfoot. One of the things I kept noticing while reading is the issue with female characters. Both BIPOHL stories are products from a 20-century reality where women were even less empowered compared to the current reality, and although the female characters are no idiots and can make their own conclusions on how to act, they still seem to rely on men and are not completely independent in their actions. They are half characters, not fully self-guided creatures who in the end drift under the influence of men, seeking comfort in the strong paternal hands.

I wish you all a Happy New Year 2018 and let’s keep reading! Unfortunately I won’t be time-wise able to read as many books as I did last year, but I remain hopeful to have at least 1-2 posts per month in any case. I set a goal of 25 books for this year, hopefully I’m able to exceed the limit.

Take care and have a great January!

“If a picture on the wall can remember, you remember that this is not the first time. If a picture on the wall can know things, you know that he has tried to leap out of that window before, and he is about to try again. He is trying to kill himself. He has tried nine times in the past fifty days. If a picture on the wall can regret, you regret this. It is a terrible waste for this man to keep trying to kill himself, since he does not at all want to die.”
~Frederik Pohl, Drunkard’s Walk

Cover photo: JoBisch, Pixabay (CC0 Creative Commons)


Author: fictivestina

Hey, I'm a native Helsinkian but a cosmopolitan at heart :) Outdoors, reading, writing and cultural attractions are my passion. Hiking in Lapland cannot be competed with!

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