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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

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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 A master's work Feb. 19 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Short and to the point in the story, (no 600 pages monster to read) shows very little ageing. A greate read.
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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 "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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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb -Pohl's best work May 14 2000
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! This is a great Scifi novel, better than anything else I've read by Pohl. Definitely one of my top 5 favorite Scifi novels of all time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Venus For Sale July 31 2009
By Dave_42 TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
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. Kornbluth was published in book form in 1953. Today the work is clearly regarded as a classic, and its satirical look at what society would look like in a future where consumerism becomes the major driving force is both humorous and a bit profound in terms of how close we have come to it.

There were few awards back in 1952 so it is not too surprising that "The Space Merchants" didn't win the first Hugo when measured against Bester's "The Demolished Man", but it is a little surprising that it wasn't considered for the International Fantasy award in 1952 when Kornbluth's much inferior "Takeoff" was one of the nominees, or in 1953 when "The Demolished Man" was considered and lost out to Sturgeon's "More Than Human". Perhaps it is the humorous premise on which the future society is based, and/or the light-hearted feel of the narrative which resulted in the work not gaining favor with those who select which works are worthy of consideration for awards. It was the fans who first recognized the book with the Astounding/Analog polls of 1956 where it tied for 22nd on the list of books, and in 1966 where ten years later it still finished 22nd on the list of books, and in 1975 when the Locus poll where it was tied for 24th for all-time novel. That is a pretty impressive feat to finish in roughly the same spot in polls taken over a twenty year period.

The story is told from the point of view of Mitch Courtenay, an employee in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency and a star-class copysmith. Mitch receives a promotion to take on the job of selling Venus to people, an account which Schocken has stolen from his rival Taunton.
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4.0 out of 5 stars truly stands the test of time Jan. 17 2003
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. If anything, many of the issues in the book resonate more today than they may have when it was first published. The characters are believable and well constructed, and Pohl gives them a story to tell that moves quickly. He avoids the pitfalls of some authors who write future-based morality plays -- there's no preaching or sidebar pontificating here, just a very good read. My only complaint is that I wish it had been longer!
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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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