STARBURST by Frederik Pohl


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Non-vintage Pohl--but energetic even at its most disarrayed. Some super-intelligent, super-stable kids (faceless characters) head for Alpha Centauri and planet Alpha-Aleph on a starship, unaware that they've been conned by ex-Nazi project director von Knefhausen: there is no planet awaiting them, hence no refueling and no return trip. Von Knefhausen's plan? To strand the kids in space, giving them undistracted time to simply sit and think. . . and thereby come up with some super-science which will help weary old Earth solve all its problems. The kids, indeed, rapidly develop into super-disagreeable geniuses--they invent a new language for precise, high-speed communication; they rebuild the ship and its power plant. But when they also discover that Alpha-Aleph is a fiction, they torment mission control by sending back cryptic messages in obscure Chinese dialects. And finally: the swindle becomes public; von Knefhausen is discredited; and the vengeful kids, before settling down to build themselves a real planet, direct a particle beam at Earth which hastens the impending collapse. No strong central character, a clichÉ-ridden narrative, and fragmented ideas throughout-- yet Pohl's professional skill nonetheless make this amorphous, often aimless jaunt into something modestly workable and engaging.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1982
Publisher: Ballantine