Midas World by Frederick Pohl (book review).

Another book I wanted to read after investigating books about SF was Frederick Pohl’s ‘Midas World’. After the discovery of a cheap energy source, the human population of Earth have different levels of wealth and the ration books aren’t to conserve money but to spend at least so much a month. Excessive wealth in other words.

Pohl wrote this reality in seven stories with ‘Midas World’ written in 1954 where we find newlyweds Moray and Cherry Fry coping, more so as she comes from a wealthier background having to live on her husband’s level of wealth instead. They all have servant robots and only need to work a couple days a week. A demonstration of too much wealth is not healthy and Fry changes the law that allows robots to spend. You have to read deeply to realise the robots are made to look like humans.

This leads into ‘The Servant Of The People’, written 24 years later and 40 years down the timeline where a senator is actually a robot and because of protocol and not wishing to hurt anyone, any robot opposition in re-election backs down rather than hurt his feelings.

Of course, there has to be a nugget and here we have ‘The Farmer On The Dole’. The robots on a farm are made redundant when their human owners decide to go to the stars. Zeb is reprogrammed as a mugger. Our kind of mugger where he steals from other robots in the city and he will get arrested if he attacks any of the remaining humans which he does twice by accident and locked up. I should point out that Zeb’s personality is added to with language implants and so forth and you follow him as an individual. It’s beautifully realised.

The final story, ‘The New Neighbours’, where a couple humans come to Earth, despite its polluted state, to live upset the robots on the block and one of its tenants has to find a way for them to move on shows an interesting tactic.

When I read Pohl’s early stories when young, think ‘Digits And Dastards’, I felt he had some strong ideas but they didn’t come over well. It wasn’t until much later with ‘Man-Plus’, despite its ending, and the ‘Heechee Saga’ that I felt he got a lot better.

With ‘Midas World’, the fact that half of its stories were written much later does suggest he needed to complete a book and just brought these stories together and filled some gaps. Some areas of ‘Midas World’ actually reflects in our society today. You only have to look at suddenly wealthy money from the likes of the Lottery and being urged to spend and doing so is expected from society. The real thing that is annoying about this book is that Pohl gets side-tracked from what he is writing about.

What’s the point about showing all people having unlimited wealth and then showing nothing about the consequences other than leaving Earth for the stars and leaving their robot servants behind on a polluted world? Couldn’t we at least have seen what the wealthy do as well with the situation? In many respects, this is a wasted idea that got sadly side-tracked than seeing how people coped with unlimited wealth.

GF Willmetts

April 2021

(pub: New English Library, 1985 from source stories from 1954-1983. 276 page paperback. I pulled my copy for £ 6.00 (UK). ISBN:0-450-05846-8)


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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