- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Revised, 21st Century edition (Dec 6 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1250000157
- ISBN-13: 978-1250000156
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.2 cm
- Shipping Weight: 22.7 g
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #151,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Space Merchants Paperback – Dec 6 2011
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“A novel of the future that the present must inevitably rank as a classic.” ―The New York Times
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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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. Mitch is in love with Dr. Kathy Nevin, but is having difficulty convincing her that they should stay together. There is also the illegal political group, the Consies (short for conservationists) who threaten the consumerism-based framework of the society.
Mitch's promotion and new project have him targeted by someone to be killed, and if that is not enough he is kidnapped and his identity stripped and he is placed in a position from which he might never escape. He is forced to create his own game to escape, gain his life back, and take on not only his own personal and professional enemies, but deal with the entire conflict between the Consies and society. The book is not all that long, and the pace is quite fast, but what a great ride it is from beginning to end.
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.
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.
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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