Review

The Boy Who Would Live Forever: A Novel of Gateway

by Frederik Pohl



As aliens go, Frederik Pohl's enigmatic and often elusive Heechee
--- created more than a quarter-century ago to propel his popular
Gateway series --- have proven difficult to fathom. They aren't
morally or socially tidy aliens, with a clear-cut agenda for good
or evil. They seem inconsistent and illogical at times; their
language (even in English "translation") is all but impenetrable;
and they have a maddening tendency to keep the likeable but rather
clueless humans in THE BOY WHO WOULD LIVE FOREVER persistently
off-balance.


But that's clearly just what Pohl intends. Ever the artist-at-play,
he wants us to scramble feverishly after Stan and Estrella,
whose spur-of-the-moment choices are sure to land them in big
trouble. As omniscient readers, we soon begin to feel rather
protective and parental toward this guileless young couple who
collide on the Gateway space station in search of (what else?)
fame, fortune and adventure --- the dreams they can no longer
afford on Earth. How can we not follow them pell-mell into the
Core, a black hole whose bizarre time dilation turns even five
minutes to long-past centuries back "home"?


Yes, it's the old, old story of escape, renewal, self-discovery and
romance, brought about by conditions so strange that nothing can be
termed impossible. But it's the way Pohl has his characters live
and tell it that makes THE BOY WHO WOULD LIVE FOREVER such an
appealing, if somewhat meandering, page-turner.


Right up to the whimsical ending, Stan and Estrella are faced with
numerous choices and opportunities as they learn how to live among
the mercurial and eccentric (by human standards) Heechee and
connect with other diaspora earthlings scattered among planets in
yet-unheard-of universes. What they do choose is disarmingly
"ordinary" --- to make good, and better, lives for themselves and
all the displaced beings the Heechee brought home with them as
living "souvenirs" of interstellar travel.


What Pohl does so beautifully and subtly here is to celebrate what
it's truly like to be different, not merely alien. Stan with
his ever-diminishing immaturity, Estrella with her disfigured face
and the uncertainties of new motherhood, and their emotionally
disturbed Heechee friend Achiever, are all challenged to grow and
discover not simply how to be good, but to become fully themselves,
as good beings. And that's pretty important if you're stuck
in a universe where you could well end up living forever!


THE BOY WHO WOULD LIVE FOREVER is vintage off-the-wall Pohl from
beginning to end, a distinguished addition to the award-winning
Gateway series that has turned the science fiction world on its ear
for more than 25 years. Highly recommended.


   












Reviewed by Pauline Finch (paulinefinch@rogers.com) on December 22, 2010

The Boy Who Would Live Forever: A Novel of Gateway
by Frederik Pohl

  • Publication Date: October 7, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Science Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 076531049X
  • ISBN-13: 9780765310491