The Annals of the Heechee
Author: Frederik Pohl
I ended up getting through this one pretty quickly, and I think the book benefited by reading it in fewer sittings. The final book of the Heechee series takes place a few decades after the previous one and the major difference is that the main character is already dead at the start of this one. However, this being science fiction in the future, that’s no problem for our protagonist and he now lives in cyberspace along with many other people who have uploaded their consciousness to continue his marriage and adventures.
Pohl touches on a few of the issues this sort of life would have throughout the book. Primarily, the individuals who live through computers rarely interact with “meat people” (aka normal people) due to how much time passes in gigaspace between every word a meat person says. Property rights are also somewhat confused now, and for individuals married to a meat person but living in cyberspace, the meat person will often create a doppelganger of his or herself to live in cyberspace while the meat version is out in the real world.
That’s the backdrop for the world as Robinette Broadhead and his gang of real people, cyberpeople and computer programs try to solve the problem of the “foe” or the “assassins” who are rearranging the universe to allow beings of energy to thrive instead of the current matter based people. The humans and Heechee are working together on this issue, and that includes digital humans as well. The supporting characters include three kids (two human, one heechee) who get drawn into first contact with the Foe, two former terrorists who escape from jail during a power outage, and just about every other major character from the prior books also makes a cameo.
One thing that really set this book apart from the prior books was the extensive science. This book spends a ton of time on explaining big time scientific concepts in layman’s terms. I actually really enjoyed these parts, and learned a lot about both the Big Bang and 9 dimensional geometry. The supporting characters were also a bit less annoying than in prior books, or if they were the same level of annoying they were utilized less. The language Pohl uses in the book, as well as the motivations of Heimat, one of the terrorists also made this book feel a bit more adult than the prior installments.
Per Wikipedia and Goodreads there’re a few other short stories and/or novellas tied into the Heechee universe, but as a conclusion to the series this was just fine. I’m not likely to hunt down the other material, but if I were to stumble across them at a used book store I’d probably pick them up. Although this is probably Pohl’s most famous work, out of the other books I’ve read by him I’d put <i>Man Plus</i> and <i>The Other End of Time</i> as my favorites. The former because it was a well written, quick story and the latter because it made me feel a lot better about life after death.