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A Plague of Pythons (1965)

af Frederik Pohl

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269398,646 (3.13)1 / 5
A Plague of Pythons is a science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl. It was originally published in 1962 in Galaxy magazine and in book form in 1965, it was republished in 1984 under the title Demon in the Skull. The title derives from the words "Domina Pythonis" used as part of an exorcism ritual performed in the first chapter to scare away the "demons" that seem to possess people in the novel. In a post-apocalyptic world where every government in the world has been overrun by its own military machinery, only to see that military machinery self-destruct, people are randomly being affected by a plague that seemingly takes over their brains and forces them to commit heinous crimes. Chandler is one of these unfortunate victims, the perpetrator of rape and murder. He is driven out of his community as a Hoaxer (someone who feigns being a victim of the plague), branded on his forehead with the letter H. But he is not feigning. In his travels, he finds the source of the plague, and it's not what people think. It's up to him to deal with it, and he does. But to what end? A Plague of Pythons was first published in Galaxy Magazine in October and December 1962. Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (1919-2013) was an American science fiction writer and editor, with a career spanning more than seventy-five years. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy and its sister magazine If; the latter won three successive annual Hugo Awards as the year's best professional magazine. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards. The Science Fiction Writers of America named Pohl its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. [Elib]… (mere)
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Sometimes I wonder why I continue to read "junky" science fiction books. This novel came out in 1965, almost 50 years ago. I think the main reason is that I like old-fashioned storytelling and sometimes I come across real surprises (good ones) such as this. For most of the book this really reads as a horror story of demonic possession - worldwide possession where almost anyone is at risk of being taken over at any time. The modern day equivalent of witch trials apparently have returned, with a twist. If possession is proven, you are not held accountable. If you are determined to be a hoaxer you are likely to be executed by firing squad the next day, after an immediate trial.

We follow the story of a man named Chandler who is on trial for his life for a viscous rape the day before at the antibiotics factory where he works. The populace does not believe he was possessed. He escapes being sentenced to death when the jury forewoman herself becomes possessed during the trial and declares him not guilty. There is an uproar and Chandler is branded and released outside of town. This all sounds a little crazy, and it is, but Pohl manages to write this in a way that lets the reader know how badly the madness has affected society. Civilization is clearly on the verge of complete collapse. No one knows if demons have invaded the world or some strange aliens or what.

Chandler jumps a train out of town and the real story begins. He is first captured (or recruited) by a semi-crazy group of people who have developed some unconventional ways to fight the possession but all hell quickly breaks loose there. Chandler eventually discovers the source of madness and we see what happens. This was a page turner for me. Not great literature but a story that had my attention.
3+ stars ( )
1 stem RBeffa | Sep 20, 2014 |
A plague of pythons takes place in the near future, in a world where possession is normal. Huh? Possession? Yes, really. Nobody really knows who is doing the possessing or why. All that is known is that it started from one day to the next, people were getting possessed and performed unspeakable acts without being able to stop it. Possession became so common that it is now a common defense at trials: I did it, but it wasn't my fault, because I was possessed. Unfortunately, this doesn't work for Chandler, since he raped and murdered a girl while in a pharmaceutical plant, and everyone knows hardly anyone ever gets possessed in places that have anything to do with pharmaceuticals, so he must be lying. He only narrowly manages to escape his fate, but he does get exiled. This starts a journey in which he tries to find ways to prevent possession and to find its cause.

The style of this book is relatively rational, but even though its not overly emotional, it is still quite engaging and mysterious. The writing is easy-going and doesn't distract from the story. Mostly, you want to find out what will happen to Chandler and what is going on with all these possessions. In the end, the story is all about power, and what it does to people. I thought this book was excellent. I was afraid it would disappoint, it being a bit old and science fiction to boot (I usually read fantasy), but there was no need to worry. It didn't feel outdated or stuffy (this is the feel I get from some of the older SF works). I reminded me a bit of John Wyndham's work, so if you liked that, you might want to give this a try too. ( )
2 stem zjakkelien | Jul 6, 2013 |
Pohl is normally a good author, but I have never been able to finish this particular book.
Maybe someday. ( )
  dragonasbreath | Dec 8, 2010 |
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This story should not be combined with the short story that appeared in the Galaxy Magazine, in 1962, by Galaxy Publishing.
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A Plague of Pythons is a science fiction novel by Frederik Pohl. It was originally published in 1962 in Galaxy magazine and in book form in 1965, it was republished in 1984 under the title Demon in the Skull. The title derives from the words "Domina Pythonis" used as part of an exorcism ritual performed in the first chapter to scare away the "demons" that seem to possess people in the novel. In a post-apocalyptic world where every government in the world has been overrun by its own military machinery, only to see that military machinery self-destruct, people are randomly being affected by a plague that seemingly takes over their brains and forces them to commit heinous crimes. Chandler is one of these unfortunate victims, the perpetrator of rape and murder. He is driven out of his community as a Hoaxer (someone who feigns being a victim of the plague), branded on his forehead with the letter H. But he is not feigning. In his travels, he finds the source of the plague, and it's not what people think. It's up to him to deal with it, and he does. But to what end? A Plague of Pythons was first published in Galaxy Magazine in October and December 1962. Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (1919-2013) was an American science fiction writer and editor, with a career spanning more than seventy-five years. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy and its sister magazine If; the latter won three successive annual Hugo Awards as the year's best professional magazine. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards. The Science Fiction Writers of America named Pohl its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. [Elib]

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