Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Space Merchants

I'm catching up on those classic science fiction novels I've always heard of but never read. To start, I tackled The Space Merchants, by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth. Written in 1952, it posits a future where America is dominated by advertising agencies and consumer culture. Senators are from corporations, not States. Rebel conservationists fight back against this setup, but they are demonized as terrorists (and some are). Our hero is an advertising copywriter, and he's at the top of society. Venus has just been deemed suitable for colonization. Our hero's corporation manages to snag the rights to colonize the planet, despite its inhospitable nature. But a secret cabal is working against him, and he finds himself shanghaied, with a change of identity and no way home. Only then does he realize that he's caught between the political and ideological forces of consumerism and conservation, and a satirical future-thriller results. I won't say more than that. I will say that I read the book in almost one sitting. It doesn't really seem dated, even with the idea that we could possibly live on Venus (the authors admit much terraforming would be required - in fact, our hero writes misleading advertising copy to get folks to go there). It's a fun read, with overtones of both Asimov and Philip K. Dick. Easy to see why this one is a classic.

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