“Man Plus” by Frederik Pohl Review

Man Plus

Man Plus

Author:  Frederik Pohl

Published:  1976

I’m not sure what I was expecting when this book started, but what I got wasn’t it. In Man Plus the United States is attempting to not only send a man to Mars (which in the book has already been done before) but to have him survive long term without a spacesuit of any kind. To do so, the man in question will have to be modified in a few minor ways. You know, just having his skin replaced, most of his organs, castrated, wings added to collect solar energy, whatevs. The premise is given pretty early on, and although it’s a 250 page book, the first 200 pages take place entirely on Earth.

If Man Plus were to be made into a movie, I think it would need be done via a David Cronenberg body horror homage. I really enjoyed Roger Torraway’s alternating acceptance and revulsion at what was occurring to him. The added stakes for Roger are mainly his paranoia that his wife is sleeping with one of the scientists on the team. The big plot twists involve a new nurse at the facility and figuring out who the narrator of the book is (which I did not see coming, even though Pohl leaves plenty of clues along the way).

Compared to some of the other award winners of this era, I flew through this book. The book stays focused primarily on Roger, but the supporting cast is developed enough to stay interesting, including the President of the United States. Besides the main concept, Pohl also dabbles in some other big picture ideas like gender roles, artificial intelligence and overpopulation. The story builds to the eventual mission to Mars where some pretty suspenseful moments take place. This was a very simple story but very well done.  I’ll definitely keep my eyes out for the sequel.


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