By October 7, 2012 0 Comments Read More →

Life on Mars: Frederik Pohl’s “Man Plus”

Science fiction has been envisioning possible futures for humankind for decades now. So, it seems appropriate to revisit a classic science fiction novel about man’s quest for exploring the potential for life on Mars in light of NASA’s Curiosity rover’s recent detection of water on that planet.

Frederik Pohl’s 1976 Nebula award-winning novel Man Plus finds earth in political and ecological crisis with the future of humankind hanging on a slender thread. So the President of the United States oversees a secret project to create a superhuman able to withstand the solar heat, wind and lack of oxygen on the planet of Mars. The project, Man Plus, aims to create a cyborg that will make a new colony on Mars possible thus saving the human species. Pohl tells the story of the man who becomes more than human with a gripping intensity; Pohl writes about a man who gives up his humanity, in the way he knows it, with such emotion and depth of understanding that the reader is drawn viscerally into the main character’s physical and emotional ordeals.

Here is the first paragraph, to draw you in:

It is necessary to tell you about Roger Torraway. One human being does not seem particularly important, when there are eight billion alive. Not more important than, for example, a single microchip in a memory store. But a single chip can be decisive when it carries an essential bit, and Torraway was important in just that way.

Roger Torraway becomes Man Plus, a monster, a cyborg. They remove his heart, his lungs, his blood, they replace his skin, his eyes, his limbs, they attach wings to absorb the solar rays. Roger’s preparation for his Mars mission is grueling in ways he could not have imagined. His mission is an honor and a curse. Will he ever be human again?

Man Plus holds up quite well and asks of the reader questions that remain salient to the world today. What will humankind do to survive? If life on Earth becomes untenable, can humans survive on other planets? What does it mean to be human? I think that you will find the questions and the answers thought-provoking, to say the least.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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