Book Review: The Reefs of Space, Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson (1964)

book cover of   The Reefs of Space    (Starchild, book 1)  by  Frederik Pohl and   Jack Williamson

3/5 (Average)

The Reefs of Space, by Frederick Pohl and Jack Williamson, is the first novel of the Starchild Trilogy (which includes Starchild and Rogue Star).

The novel follows the brilliant (and amnesia induced) scientist Steve Ryeland and his human “computational” companion Oporto through a future Earth dominated by the Plan of Man Computer (i.e. everyone gets a little strip of paper whenever they’re next to a console telling them what to do). Think 1984-esque dystopia with a computerized Big Brother.

Well, Steve’s job is to create a “jetless” drive. Also, Steve’s a Risk (i.e he has a bomb collar around his neck for doing something against the Plan of Man in the past) and he wants it off. Some cool space reefs, who’s the junkman questions, spacelings, and a drug pumpin’ version of heaven, all make this an enjoyable read.

This future Earth flies by so fast with the quick prose/action/dialogue that the reader has little time to think about anything else. Is that good? If you want an enjoyable few hours, then yes. Is there anything more than a good yarn, probably not. Great fun!

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3 Replies to “Book Review: The Reefs of Space, Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson (1964)”

  1. Nice review; it’s also an accurate description of the second book in the trilogy, Starchild. That one had a promising first chapter — various important people watching the freaking sun turn off — before it broke down into a reiteration of the first book. The third one was just bad.

    I read that Williamson wrote Reefs in the ’50s, and couldn’t publish it for years because the science was so outdated. He also wrote the first draft of each novel and Pohl did the final drafts while editing. I see a lot of Williamson in Reefs: he got his start doing action-adventure “scientifiction” in the ’30s and stuck with that style long after it was in vogue. The later books had a lot of Pohl, which might be why they weren’t so good.

    1. Again, another work where I own the other two volumes but wasn’t inspired enough to put it ahead of all the other books I rather read…. I’m reading a Williamson work at the moment — The Trial of Terra — it’s kind of fun, I might prefer him to Pohl whom I believe is one of the most overrated sci-fi writers ever (along with Heinlein, Asimov, and Orson Scott Card).

      1. I don’t know,but I wonder if Heinlein at the begining of his career,would have written better sf if it had been possible,outside of the then generic magazines.He was a seminal influence on modern sf though,even though he failed to do himself what he had inspired later,better writers to achieve.

        I’ve only read a very few,very short stories by Asimov.I don’t know what his novels would be like.Card also I’ve only read a single volume of his short stories.They were rather forgetable.

        I remember reading Pohl’s short story collection,”The Man Who Ate the World”,but couldn’t finish it.Only read a few more of his short pieces in anthologies.I don’t think I could take his novels.Mind you though,I remember his one in “Dangerous Visions”,which wasn’t too bad.

        I’ve read Williamson’s “Darker Than You Think”,which was quite good,and an important influence on Matheson’s “I Am Legend” and Martin’s “Ferve Dream”.

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