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Plague of Pythons

Frederik Pohl

Book Overview: 

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?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Evidently someone had been right inside, listening.

A man stared at him. "Stranger, what do you want?" He was short, plump, with an extremely thick and unkempt beard. It did not appear to have been grown for its own sake, for where the facial hair could not be coaxed to grow his skin had the gross pits of old acne.

Chandler said glibly: "Good morning. I'm working my way east. I need something to eat and I'm willing to work for it."

The man withdrew, leaving the upper half of the Dutch door open. As it looked in on only a vestibule it did not tell Chandler much. There was one curious thing—a lath and cardboard sign, shaped like an arc of a rainbow, lettered:

WELCOME TO ORPHALESE

He puzzled over it and dismissed it. The entrance room, apart from the sign, had a knickknack shelf of Japanese carved ivory and an old-fashioned umbrella rack, but that added nothing to his knowledge. He had already. . . Read More

Community Reviews

When I heard that Frederik Pohl, one of the Grand Old Masters of science fiction, had died earlier this month, I rummaged through my collection of vintage paperbacks looking for something of his I hadn't read. I came up with this short 1965 novel.

Someone or something is taking over people's minds...more

An underrated book. The premise is that a device has been invented which allows the user to assume control of other people's bodies at will: electronically mediated possession, in effect. Pohl explores the consequences unflinchingly.

There are a couple of extremely memorable and disturbing sequen...more

Pohl is developing into a fine author here. By 1962, he had published many short stories, just short of a dozen, either on his own or in collaboration with Kornbluth, Lester Del Rey and Jack Williamson. As for this one, I would not consider it a master piece of the genre, but is does break some g...more

If you had god-like powers would you use them for good or evil? Or just fulfill your every fantasy?

Five years before, back in the old days before the demons came, when he was helping design telemetry equipment for the Ganymede probe. Chandler would not have believed his life would be at stake in...more

Dated? Sure. Uncomfortable? Oh, yeah. The way it illustrates the old saw about absolute power corrupting absolutely, though, is masterful. In context, the very last line: “And he knew that he lied.” is almost horrifying.

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 a...more

mind control, perhaps a story of absolute power,
what would most people do?

Great little SF gem. Spooky and definitely not for the squeamish. It would have been all but impossible to adapt for film when it was published in the early 60's but in today's ultra violent video culture it would be quite the cinematic wild ride. Great premise; well realized. Give it a read.

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...more

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Lord Acton’s quote was as true then as it is now and serves as the fundamental theme of Frederik Pohl’s 1965 publication, Plague of Pythons.

As the story begins, there has been some global calamity whereby people are possessed and can be made...more

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