During the beginning pages of The Other End of Time, I wondered if this book would have been published if had been by someone of lesser stature than Frederick Pohl. By the end of the book I realized that no one except Frederick Pohl could have written it. Unfortunately, it feels as if the story were originally a novelette which Pohl was cajoled into expanding to book length.
Pohl spends a great deal of time showing us a world where inflation has run rampant, Florida has become a separate country and astronauts are left to die in space stations due to lack of public interest. A pair of broadcasts from outer space showing alien beings fail to noticeably stir up a reaction. Everyone is too busy being miserable.
For obscure reasons the United States (what is left of it) recalls a deep cover secret agent, one Dan Dannerman, from an important assignment and sets him to spying on his own cousin. The first third of the book is told from his POV as he awkwardly tries to worm his way into his cousin's confidence. Through his eyes we learn about the world and what little there is to know about the space aliens. Luckily, space travel has advanced enough so that with no training, Dannerman is able to trick his way into a spaceflight. No one even bothered to check his heart.
The first part of The Other End of Time seemed to have nothing to do with what went on in the rest of the book. This is fine since the first part of the book is so stiffly written, you really don't care. This appears to be the part Mr. Pohl tacked on, perhaps to justify Dannerman's presence.
The story becomes much more interesting as the crew boards the abandoned space station, but said crew doesn't become any smarter. They ignore several indicators which scream "Danger! Danger!" and find themselves as prisoners on a planet many light years away from Earth. Their alien captor makes several startling revelations but the humans fail to react. Maybe it is just me, but it doesn't seem natural that supposedly intelligent people would not ask certain questions under certain situations. They didn't even have the wit to have nervous breakdowns.
The Other End of Time has several interesting ideas wandering around inside, such as what is the nature of death and how alien races might view death. Too bad such an enjoyable story was allowed to become bloated.
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