The interstellar trading ship Nordvik stops at Slowyear, a distant and isolated planet with long seasons and unusual traditions.
Frederik Pohl’s characters are generally pretty down to earth, though often with jaded quality to them. Stopping at Slowyear follows the pattern. The inhabitants of Slowyear have developed their culture to deal with a difficult landscape in which much of their time is spent avoiding intense heat in summer, intense cold in winter, as well as local illnesses that kill many of the young and elderly. Mercy Macdonald, looking to escape from the limited world of the starship, meets Blundy, a Slowyear native and acclaimed playwright. The novella follows their interaction, and the reactions of Blundy’s wife.
Slowyear offers Pohl’s usual mix of cynical calculation and impulsive action, but the characters feels more distant than in most of his work. The ending is effective, but somewhat abrupt, despite a good deal of foreshadowing, and not entirely ‘fair’. If Pohl had spent a little more time rounding things out, the story would have been more satisfying. For all that, it’s an enjoyable read, and worth picking up for Pohl fans.