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THE SPACE MERCHANTS [Mass Market Paperback]

Frederik Pohl
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 12 1976

In a vastly overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge transnational corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and boasts some of the world’s most powerful executives.

Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve the quality of life. However, the most basic elements are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel.

The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed.

Mitch Courtenay is a star-class copywriter in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency and has been assigned the ad campaign that would attract colonists to Venus, but a lot more is happening than he knows about. Mitch is soon thrown into a world of danger, mystery, and intrigue, where the people in his life are never quite what they seem, and his loyalties and core beliefs will be put to the test.

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“A novel of the future that the present must inevitably rank as a classic.”—The New York Times

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

FREDERIK POHL’s writing career spans over seventy years. He won the National Book Award in 1980 for his novel Jem. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine, If, winning the Hugo Award for it three years in a row. His writing also won him four Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards. He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993. Pohl won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, based on his writing on his blog, “The Way the Future Blogs.”

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars "Absolute power ennobles absolutely" Aug. 17 2002
It's a shame that a book this good is available only in a crummy paperbound edition with cheesy, generic cover art. The Space Merchants deserves to be read by all aficionados of the genre, being one of the true classics. The authors collaborated on several other works, but this one is the first and most well known. Since Kornblouth in particular was a great admirer of George Orwell, its no coincidence that links can be drawn between this dystopian novel and 1984. Both are anti-establishment, both intense and well written, and both have their share of knockout lines and phrases. In this future world capitalism acts as an enslaver of the underclass, and the driving force in our protagonist's life is his job selling his firm's products to the masses. His personality and his job have put him on bad terms with his wife, but that is the least of his problems after his identity is stolen and he becomes a slave of the system he helped build, forced to be, part migrant worker and part indentured servant.
Although the political aspects of the novel are important, don't forget that really, the Space Merchants is a humorous book in addition to being a work of science fiction. It's just brisling with irony, and because of this, it is a fun read as Mitch takes a darkly comedic ride from the very top to the very bottom and tries to get back on top again. In conclusion, buy this novel, even in this lousy edition, and then repurchase it in hardcover. It's worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars a mix of Huxley and Dick ... May 27 2002
By lazza
The Space Merchants is an interesting little science fiction novel which describes the world in the 23rd century. By then global capitalism, especially the top advertisers, almost literally rule the plant. Excessive population and pollution have driven the masses underground. People are nourished by the flesh of weird genetically modified beasts. Considering this book was written fifty years ago I found the subject matter surprisingly fresh and relevant.
The story involves a top ad man who finds his task of developing a campaign for the colonisation of Venus dramatically undermined by dark forces. In this complex stew of industrial espionage are competing ad companies and the underground conservationist guerillas. The mystery moves along at a good clip although it sputters a bit towards the end.
Overall this book touches some deep issues along the lines of Aldous ('Brave New World') Huxley, and has a satiric (and weird) feel like the works of Philip K. ('Ubik') Dick. Certainly a minor classic in its own right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars No question, one of the great Sci-fi classics Oct. 13 2002
Format:Library Binding
One of the more frustrating things about Science fiction is the way that many of the premier titles in the genre go out of print and remain unavailable for long periods of time. It would be really great to see a couple of publishing houses attempt to keep some of the greater Sci-fi novels from the past in print.
THE SPACE MERCHANTS is remarkable for the way it combines advertising, corporate culture (especially relevant today with the Enron and Worldcom scandals), and reflections on ways it might be possible to exploit the solar system economically in the future. Like the best of Sci-fi, it presents a plausible vision of the future that seems equally to life today, while also managing a great plot. The ending (which, of course, I cannot describe without giving too much away) is one of my favorites in all of Sci-fi. The book feels like it was written much more recently than 1952.
Definitely worth seeking out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars At last, its back in print. March 1 2003
Written over 50 years ago, this book anticipated much of what is wrong in the world we now live in -including corporate imperialism, environmental degradation and the villification of conservationists, the replacement of humanity with two categories of people -those who sell and those who consume, the death of spiritual values and the total ascendancy of materialism. Pohl and Kornbluth have created a materialist, consumerist dystopia that ranks with Vonnegut's Player Piano (also written in the early 1950s), and anticipates books like Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero and Joseph Heller's Catch 22. And, like the latter books, it manages somehow to be funny much of the time. What a tremendous loss it was for science fiction, and literature in general, when Cyril Kornbluth died prematurely. He had the makings of another Swift, if only he could have lived another 20 years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the All-Time SF Greats July 9 1998
By A Customer
He has been largely forgotten by the mainstream now, but C.M. (Cyril) Kornbluth was one of the giants of science fiction. He was just hitting his stride when cancer claimed him in 1958 at the age of 35. "The Space Merchants," a collaboration with the legendary Frederick Pohl, has been rated one of the seminal works in the entire field. A quick look at the logo-addicted styles of today will show you just how on-target Kornbluth and Pohl were four decades ago.
If you enjoy reading "The Space Merchants," I suggest you prowl the used-book stores for a copy of Kornbluth's "The Syndic," another satire.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Great Classics of SF Nov. 21 1998
When you put together a list of possible best novels ever written in the SF field, this novel has to make the short list.
Fred Pohl and Kornbluth wrote a great novel about what advertising has, more or less, become over the corse of the last 50 years. They take it to a greater exterm... but nobody thought that a company would really make people addicted to their product in order to incress sales. But then, look at what all the documents now tell us about the tabocco companies and when they knew it.
Pohl and Kornbluth were more dead on they even they dared to understand.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Venus For Sale
After appearing as a serial titled "Gravy Planet" in "Galaxy Science Fiction" from June through August in 1952, "The Space Merchants" by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Read more
Published on July 31 2009 by Dave_42
5.0 out of 5 stars A master's work
Short and to the point in the story, (no 600 pages monster to read) shows very little ageing. A greate read.
Published on Feb. 19 2004 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars truly stands the test of time
Written 50 years ago, you might expect this book, set in "the future", to be hopelessly trite and dated, but it holds up remarkably well. Read more
Published on Jan. 16 2003 by datadame
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe this book is out of print!
This book should be required reading for everyone. The prescience of the book (written in the early 1950s) is simply incredible. Read more
Published on Jan. 7 2002 by Silverwoodchuck47
5.0 out of 5 stars Big Business keeping us down...
I had to read this for Dr. Frost's SciFi class. In the beginning I had my doubts. I don't think I actually finished it in time for the test. Read more
Published on Sept. 25 2001 by Ashley Wynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb -Pohl's best work
I bought this book but put it aside for a couple of years until finding it again. I decided to read it. Boy was I in for a surprise! Read more
Published on May 14 2000 by B. Tindall
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top ten favorite SF novels
I think if I hadn't read John Clute's SF Encyclopedia, I would have missed out on this amazingly entertaining novel. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 1998 by A TMBG fan (bleed272@aol.com)
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