Drunkard’s Walk — Frederik Pohl (1960)


Publisher: Ballantine Books

Third Ballantine Edition, 1969

Cover Art: Robert Foster

Plot Synopsis (of cover): Maya stared off tangentially to the near-orbiting moon, boredom on her face. “Clark,” she began, “how many times are we going to come up here? I want to go on a REAL date, not play with your bicycle part collection in the vacuum of low lunar orbit every weekend.” “But honey,” replied Clark, who had decorated his bicycle spokes with what he fancied was a pretty sweet aluminum fern, “this is what all of the cool people are doing these days! Bringing random shit into space, tying it to other random shit, and then floating around naked in a haze of ennui. It’s post-modern.” Maya had just about had enough, and Clark could tell. He tried to cut her inevitable protest off before her temper could heat up (as much as such a thing could in the dead cold of space) any further. “Look, Maya, we’re violating the basic principles of physics here. Isn’t that cool? And look, I brought this metal bit from the inside of a bank vault door.” Maya was not impressed. “What the fuck?” she asked. “Why would you haul that up here?” “Because it’s random! Lol!” Clark replied. Maya shouted, “You know what? My mother was right. I should never have removed my lower torso for a freak like you. I’m gonna put my bikini top back on to cover the startlingly pale flesh beneath my tan and then I’m going to try online dating. As for your stupid vault door chunk, well, you can fuck it instead of my exposed lower vertebrae tonight!” And he did—it was great.

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: So, on the one hand, I really like Pohl. His style is great, his prose is lovely, and his development of both character and setting are masterful… in general. This novel (a serialization converted to pulpy paperback pattern) did not tickle my happy place. In fact, it bored the ever-loving spunk out of my happy place. The physics student in me acknowledges that the occasional nod to number theory is fascinating, and that it’s a curiosity when it’s directly utilized in mass media. However, unless you’re REALLY into number theory, like those people who spank it to My Little Pony, or you think everything Pohl touches turns to gold, you might as well give this one a pass. There are better uses for your time. The quote on the cover says it all—it’s a “satisfactory effort.” If Ballantine want my quote for the next edition, it’s “Great. I need a nap now.”

Rating: 7.5 Idly Severed Jugulars

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Why is it that the next evolutionary leap in human development simultaneously grants us the freedom to do spacewalks sans spacesuit and an obsession with what would certainly be antiquated modes of transport by the time the gene had developed?
  • As current NASA figures put it, it now costs $10,000 US to send one pound into space. Use the tables in the back of your text to calculate how much it would cost to send these bicycle parts into space, and then subtract the money saved on returning the dead, mentally deficient astronauts who left the cockpit to play with them. Show your work.
  • If this is what the Apollo missions saw on the way to the moon, is that why we don’t go back there anymore?

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2 thoughts on “Drunkard’s Walk — Frederik Pohl (1960)

  1. Lol! I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since Joachim at SF Ruminations blogged about it. If I remember the synopsis correctly, there’s nothing about space or bicycle parts at all in the book, right?

    Liked by 1 person

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