2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Sci Fi title that really rended my heart
Today I finished GATEWAY at 4am after staying up most of the night engrossed in Pohl's masterpiece. Yes, it's that good in my opinion. And quite frankly it devasted me. If you like your SF with emotion, feeling and fully 3 dimensionally characters, You will love this book. It will break your heart. Pohl leads you up to a point where you think things will be OK, then...
Published on Sept. 4 2003 by James Henry
3.0 out of 5 stars Ruined By Hollywood Angst
This book has some merits. Pohl paints a convincing miners' world by giving us a sense of its grit and stench. The lives of the miners are also handled well. The cramped seediness of their environment stunts their souls and this is crafted both believably and professionally. And, in spite of portraying Twenty-Third (?) century scientists as being unrealistically dense,...
Published on June 20 2003 by Barry C. Chow
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Sci Fi title that really rended my heart,
Today I finished GATEWAY at 4am after staying up most of the night engrossed in Pohl's masterpiece. Yes, it's that good in my opinion. And quite frankly it devasted me. If you like your SF with emotion, feeling and fully 3 dimensionally characters, You will love this book. It will break your heart. Pohl leads you up to a point where you think things will be OK, then leads you careening over the edge. It really hit me hard, emotionally. Some people would say that this is melodrama, but I don't think so.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding story,
"Gateway" tells the story of the ultimate futuristic gold rush. In the 21st century, an asteroid known as Gateway is discovered containing hundreds of ancient space ships, all of them with pre-programmed courses already set. The builders of the ships are referred to as Heechees, but very little is known of who they were, why they built the asteroid, or why the Heechee disappeared. Since no human knows how to steer the ships or predict the destinations, explorers have to get in the ships, activate the program, and then go where it takes them. Some discover vast wealth; many never return or come back dead because they have run out of food or air.
Robinette Broadhead becomes a Gateway prospector as one of the few avenues of advancement open to a poor person on Earth. This book tells of his trips interspersed with his conversations with a computerized therapist.
The setting is interesting, and the story is very effective. I would recommend this book highly.
This is the opener of a series which suffers from what might be called the "Dune" Effect: a terrific first book, with diminishing returns in subsequent volumes. Pohl ultimately does resolve the mystery of the Heechees, along with other questions not introduced in this book; unfortunately the answers are less interesting than the questions, and the story loses momentum well before the end of the series. I would recommend the sequel, "Beyond the Blue Event Horizon", but the final two volumes aren't up to snuff.
4.0 out of 5 stars Despite structural flaws, a satisfying read,
Frederik Pohl has always been one of my favourite SF authors. As a double Hugo/Nebula winner for 1997's best novel, that makes it (at least nominally) one of the best of the best.
In the mid-21st century, tunnels and artifacts are discovered on Venus. This discovery leads in turn to the far more lucrative discovery of Gateway, an asteroid orbiting the sun outside the elliptical plane, tunnelled out and housing nearly 1000 spaceships abandoned half a million years ago by a mysterious race that humans have labelled the Heechee. These fully-functional ships are capable of faster-than-light travel and can hold one to five passengers. The problem is, no one knows how to operate the controls. Prospectors have spent their life's savings to travel to Gateway and travel in one of the ships to destinations unknown, hoping to make a major scientific or commercial discovery. Some do and hit it big. Most don't. Many don't come back.
The protagonist, millionaire Robinette Broadhead, is one of the ones who hit it big. We find out two important things about him at the beginning of Gateway. First, on one of his trips he made a major discovery worth 18 million dollars. Second, he is a very screwed-up man; we first meet him lying on a mat in the office of his digital shrink, Sigfrid.
Structurally, the novel's chapters alternate between Broadhead's sessions with Sigfrid, and flashbacks to Broadhead's experiences on Gateway. Unfortunately the book's structure is its major weakness. There is simply too much Sigfrid; Broadhead's appointments with the shrink could have been removed by half without harming the story. Besides, reading Freudian interpretation after interpretation of Broadhead's dreams and word choices starts to get monotonous.
It is the flashback sequences on Gateway and beyond that make this novel interesting by far. Pohl has done an excellent job of preserving the mystery of the Heechee. They are never revealed, even at the denouement of the story. Their presence is felt only through the tunnels of Gateway, the rare half-million-year-old artifacts they left behind, and their still-functional spaceships with their cryptic controls, the function of which can only be guessed at (more often than not wrongly). Interspersed throughout the book are page-long sidebars containing snapshots of life on or about Gateway: classified ads, trip reports, academic lectures. In addition to helping create a general impression of the risks of being a Gateway prospector, some of these little diversions provide clues to how the story ends, and are worth reading carefully.
If you're a hard SF fan and haven't picked up Gateway yet, you owe it to yourself. Despite its literary flaws, it's on my list of must-read SF novels.
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine beginning.,
I'm always reluctant to start a new series of Sci-fi novels because of the usual let-down that ensues after a fine beginning novel. I've read the sequel, "Beyond the Blue Event Horizon," and I was thoroughly disappointed. It took me over a year to even bother to start the third book, which I am reading now and so far it doesn't look too promising, either. So, what I'm trying to say, in so many run-on sentences, is to read the first book only. It has a great mystery at its heart, and does what all masterful Sci-fi does best: raises more questions than it answers. There are a few down moments, but they are forgivable given that I was there with the characters pondering the mysteries of the Heechee and subconciously fearful for their well-being when they do travel to the stars. Some never return; some return with their entrails splattered all over the inside of the ship. It's a dice game with the craft of the Heechee. But those who return with artifacts and knowledge are likely to become rich beyond their wildest dreams. For some reason, much like Dan Simmons' "Endymion," I keep having memory flashes from this novel. I was there in spirit. The great Sci-fi novels take you on a journey into the unknown and sometimes beyond. This is one of those novels.
3.0 out of 5 stars Ruined By Hollywood Angst,
This book has some merits. Pohl paints a convincing miners' world by giving us a sense of its grit and stench. The lives of the miners are also handled well. The cramped seediness of their environment stunts their souls and this is crafted both believably and professionally. And, in spite of portraying Twenty-Third (?) century scientists as being unrealistically dense, the mystery of the Heechee is equal to any other creation in science fiction.
However, for all its strengths, this book didn't engage me. I found the angst of the main character both affected and contrived. And while his emotional self-flagellation was not central to the workings of the story, it kept distracting me from the more important elements. Consequently, I couldn't enjoy the story because of my resentment towards the book's heavy-handed artifice.
In this book, Pohl is so intent on teasing a multi-dimensional character out of a uni-dimensional kernel that he overindulges in Freudian excess. The main character is a parody of psychological trauma. His self-consuming guilt is advertised to the reader with all the subtlety of a highway billboard. Just as blatantly, our hero goes through unbelievable mental contortions to evade his real feelings. What we get is not a characterization we can identify with, but a painfully simplistic parody of an emotional breakdown. If despair and survivor guilt were really this superficial, psychiatrists would all be out of work.
Many readers unused to science fiction complain about the genre's tendency towards simple characters. This book illustrates why simple characters in the service of a good story are preferable to "complex" characters purchased with pretension. Grandmasters like Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein rarely created multifaceted or engaging characters. Yet some of these works proved to be classics because characterization was unimportant to the story. Here, a great story is felled by a misguided attempt to inject "dimension" into the hero when a simpler hero would have allowed the complexity of his world to take centre stage.
If you can get past the Hollywood angst, this book is actually a pretty good read with interesting ideas, settings and storyline. But it could have passed from "good" to "great", and it's a shame that its excesses prevent it from achieving something grander.
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic,
Let's see what I can remember...
There were a lot of good things about this book. The narrator, Robinette Broadhead, was fun to read about. Some authors can't do first-person narratives very well, but here Pohl creates a great character just by having him speak. Rob (a young man with a feminine name that he despises) has a lot of energy and emotion, and his fiery narration really carries the book.
The narrative jumps back and forth in time, from Rob's first visit to Gateway station, an abandoned alien base on an asteroid, to when Rob is older and undergoing psychotherapy. The scenes with his computer therapist, Siegfried von Shrink, are particularly entertaining. This also ups the suspense throughout the book: because of Rob's conversations with his shrink, you know something is going to happen, but you don't know what.
The Heechee - the alien race that built Gateway station - are also fascinating. We never see them (at least, not until the end of the sequel), but we're given little tidbits of their culture and physiology. The sense of mystery surrounding them is immense.
Pohl does a fantastic job creating the mood on Gateway station. Whenever a character ventures out on one of the autopiloted Heechee ships, there an overwhelming sense of anxiety and fear, because no one knows whether the ship will come back or not, or what will happen to the crew. Some of these ships vanish without a trace, others return just fine; some come back with the crew dead inside. There's always the chance, however, that at the other end of one of these trips, the crew will find a habitable planet, or something that could make them rich.
The boredom between trips is also entertaining somehow. Robinette is so scared of disappearing in a Heechee ship, he spends a lot of the book being a typical teenager: he has sex, smokes pot, etc. There are lots of characters on Gateway, and most of them are fleshed out pretty well. Some of the twists of sexuality undergone by Rob towards the end of the book are cool too.
The future of this book is believably detailed with realistic science and social speculation, told and explained by a narrator who actually lives there. This book is very high on my list of favorites; too bad the sequels weren't quite as magnetic.
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard science fiction combined with character study,
The premise of Gateway is simple enough - humankind has discovered a space station abandoned 500 000 years ago by a technologically superior race (the "Heechee"). Part of the station's equipment is a group of space shuttles with faster-than-light drives. The shuttles have a capacity of 1 to 5 humans. No one can figure out most of the technology in them, but through trial and error, they learn that if a certain panel glows a certain intensity, the ship will make a round trip to.... somewhere. The truly adventurous (or desperate) sign up to ride the vessels out and back and see if they go anywhere of use (i.e. an old Heechee colony that contains some more of the wonderful Heechee artfacts/technology). Of course, because nothing is known of the destination, and because the Heechee were known to be scientists, sometimes the destinations are close to black holes, inside recent supernovae (that were stars 500 000 years ago), or the trip is too long for the occupants' food/water supplies.
The central character is Bob Broadhead, a poor miner who won enough money in a lottery for a ticket to Gateway. Unfortunately for him, he's a self-professed coward - afraid to go back to the mines, yet afraid to try his luck in the Heechee ships. It turns out that the story is more of a character study - we first meet Broadhead in his psychiatrist's office, where he's fabulously wealthy after three trips in the Heechee ships, but with deep emotional problems. The story intercuts between therapy sessions and a first-person account of the actual events leading up to his fame and pychosis.
The strength of the book is the way it maintains suspense and interest - we know what is going to happen to Broadhead, but not how, and not the fates of his friends and associates. It is well established that many flights are "successful" only in the fact that at least one of the crew returns alive. The therapy sessions and the story narrative are effortlessly intertwined and build up a rich weave of narrative that is difficult to put down.
The future world is plausible, and written in a fashion where little is explained explicitly, but where the reader can fully understand based on context. There is very little science because the inner workings of the Heechee artifacts are not understood. The book's weakness is, in fact, its attempts to explain some of the technologies (the explanations of Heechee "metal" are laughable). However, this is a fully realised futuristic society, self-contained and a logical extension of pre-AIDS sexual mores... That the psychoanalysis is almost excusively Freudian is forgivable because it fits perfectly well with the attitudes and morals of the society.
It is the first book of a series, although completely self-contained. It piqued my interest enough that I will be on the lookout for the second book in the series, and is a worthy dounle-winner of science fiction's top prizes, the Hugo and Nebula.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Satisfying Read,
Gateway is the first book in Pohl's wonderful Heechee Saga. It details the adventures of Robinette Broadhead, told in flashback. In the beginning of the book we learn that Broadhead had struck it rich, but do not know why. We learn his past through a series of therapy sessions with his psychologist (in the present), and through a telling of events in the past. Broadhead is a successful gateway prospector. Not too long ago in the story's history, humans stumbled upon the remnants of technology possessed by an advanced race. One of these prized artifacts was a huge spacestation with a nest of thousands of ships. This spacestation was termed Gateway, as these ships were found to have preprogrammed destinations. Unfortunately, humankind has not found out how to change the course of the ships, only to be led to their preprogrammed destination, and back. The problem was, the ancient race (termed the 'Heechee') had left for nearly half a million years, so some of these destinations became disaster areas, such as nearby a star that had undergone a supernova. Thus the adventure was on. Those who could afford the trip to gateway risked their lives on board these Heechee ships. If something of scientific value (such as more Heechee technology) was found at a destination, a bonus was given to the lucky prospector. More people died than strike it rich however... The last 30 pages or so is hard to put down as the story comes to a climax. Broadhead is one of the lucky people to strike it rich. But how? Read and find out!
4.0 out of 5 stars slow at first, but picks up,
just as the heechee space-worm drive works...picking up speed...this book seemed to work the same way.
for a hugo award winner, i was surprised i had to fight the temptation to put the book down during the first chapter or so...
but, stick with it
very well worth it
just a tough beginning.
gateway, explores scientific, sociological, technological, and pyschological avenues all interetwined as a few select years of rob broadhead's life. this book follows (through two sets of dialogue) robinette broadhead, through some of his exploits as a prospector for heechee (long lost race of aliens) valuables and technology.
the two narratives, alternate chapters, and conist of 1) rob talking with his computer pyschiatrist, who he dubs 'sigfrid von shrink', who continously probes deeper into harsh issues rob can not yet deal with, and 2) the story of his life as a prospector, and all of the technology and other such things.
if you find yourself, like i did, with the urge to drop the book...push on. it really does get quite good.
4.0 out of 5 stars 30-year-old Hard SF, a bit rough but original even today,
The story: Mankind has discovered a long-abandoned alien space station, with hundreds of empty space ships. The discovery brings new hope-- and new heroes-- to the miserable masses on an overpopulated Earth.
There's a problem, though. Although hundreds of space ships are docked at the station, no one knows much about how to control them. Enter Robin Broadhead, one of many desperate people who have spent their life's savings-- or lottery winnings-- to get to the station in order to risk their lives taking the space ships out into space in search of other abandoned technologies. The prize: striking it rich and living a decent life in a hard world.
Unfortunately for Robin, his willingness to flee life on Earth doesn't change the fact that's he's shivering in his boots at the thought of dying out in deep space.
Pohl does a good job of creating a sense of raw human fear in Gateway, his early signature work. It's a scary story about an average guy who is afraid to die. It's considered a classic, even though it's a bit rough around the edges and the prose is at times lacking, because it sticks to the basics: it's an engaging, tightly written story about a person. And even today, it's quite original in the telling.
Pohl does a masterful job of creating a sense that Robin's life on Gateway (the name of the space station) is much like the feeling you have when you've worked yourself up into climbing a 50-foot tree high above a river, then lose your stomach. Even though you're too afraid to jump, you can't turn back because there's a crowd of people climbing the tree behind you.
It's a clever premise that Pohl executes well. The story is told in a series of flashforwards and flashbacks, as an older Robin talks to a therapist about his past and a younger Robin fears the future.
Gateway is not a masterpiece. Pohl's recently published hard SF Eschaton series, which ends with "The Far Shore of Time," has far more believable characters, far more persuasive description, and the sense of "creepiness" that comes with engaging the Unknown is far more engaging. But Gateway is a high water mark in Pohl's career, and in science fiction as well. It's interesting and it's scary. That's why you'll read it more than once.
[There are a number of sequels to this book. There's a reason why they're all out of print, but I've seen them all at larger used book stores.]
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Gateway by Frederik Pohl (Paperback - Oct. 12 2004)
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