- by Gitabushi
Well, this post is by Gitabushi. Not “The Cool War.” That was by Frederick Pohl.
Anyway, this book sticks in my memory as one of the most memorable and singular books I’ve ever read. I recommend everyone read it, not just SFF fans.
It is Near Future science fiction. I don’t recall any technology in it that might not already exist; very little, if any, didn’t already exist at the time of publishing. It doesn’t require any alternate Earth aspects. It is mostly just a glimpse at a coherent reason behind the chaos we see in the news every day.
The reason it left such a deep impression on me, perhaps, is I read it when I was about 14 or 15. At that age, I really believed that books held actual answers to life, that authors were published because they were deemed to have some sort of accurate insight.
I still am not sure why I thought that.
Maybe it was because I was raised to believe the Bible has Answers (and it does, even for those who don’t have Christian faith, but that’s another topic), so it was a short step to think other books had answers? Or maybe I didn’t think there was any Divine imprimatur in books, but simply that we were taught from books in school, and a PhD is the study of ideas in books, and when people have good ideas they write them down in books, and the books with ideas that prove to be correct are the ones that survive?
I don’t know. All I know is for a few years, I looked for the meaning of life, love, and general existence in books.
And that’s when I encountered “The Cool War.”
All that is maybe too big of a setup. I didn’t learn anything from this book that changed my life.
But it did give me a view of how the world itself works that persists to this day, more than 30 years after I first read it.
I’ve since come to understand Frederik Pohl writes from a Conspiracy Theory viewpoint. I’ve also come to understand that the Unitarian-Universalist faith is both real and accurately described in the book, instead of it being a snarky prediction on the future of the watering-down of Christian faith I assumed it was at the time.
Still, it is an entertaining, engaging, well-written story that may provide you with hours of philosophical fodder to digest.