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The Space Merchants (1953)

by Frederik Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Space merchants (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,633497,508 (3.79)73
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.… (more)
  1. 10
    Jennifer Government by Max Barry (prezzey)
    prezzey: Two satirical takes on capitalism and consumerism in the future, a classic and a more recent work.
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» See also 73 mentions

English (43)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  Finnish (1)  Italian (1)  Greek (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
There's talk these days of good retro-scifi, and in its own way I think this accidentally fits. Not because it's retro - it was written in its time - but because it has that perfect blend of 50's vernacular with future society problems. Pohl and Kornbluth took a stab at what the future would look like, and for all that they failed and missed with, they still managed to hit a few things dead on. A good read. ( )
  kodermike | Jul 31, 2020 |
I think I like the ideas of this book, more than the actual book itself. Great world building, entertaining story, although the blight of a narrator "too stupid to live" was annoying. Like so much sci-fi the main theme of this book was thought provoking, but I in the end I had little sympathy for the "good guys". Maybe it's because we live a in world where ridiculous companies like PETA exist and where twitter armies will descend on randoms they disagree with, but I have little sympathy for a group of people who will happily ruining a man's life because he had the "wrong" sort of politics. ( )
  Fardo | Oct 15, 2019 |
Very prescient. A crazy future world where advertising *rules*. Can you imagine it. (Oh, guess I don't need to). ( )
  mrklingon | Apr 22, 2019 |
Published in 1952 this novel is included in the Science fiction masterwork series. It is science fiction very much of it’s time with its central hero Mitch Courtenay bulldozing his way through seemingly impossible odds to marry the girl of his dreams while defeating all his enemies. It is also a very fast paced thriller which despite its title is very much earthbound. What makes it stand out from the crowd of science fiction writing of the time is the scenario of an America (and the world) in hock to advertising corporations that shape society in order to increase sales. They have become so powerful that they control the government and in allegiance with production companies have addicted much of the population to their products. These huge companies’ creation of a totally free market driven by greed for more and more sales probably strikes a chord with some readers as it does not seem a million miles from our current situation. Perhaps then this short punchy novel lingers more in the realms of rosy reminiscence than actuality, because in my opinion it is not great science fiction.

It is written in the first person and starts off well in plunging the reader into the viscous world of a board room struggle at the Fowler Schoken associates who we are told have achieved a corporations dream by merging a whole sub continent into a single manufacturing complex. Mitch Courtenay gets to be named head of the latest project which is to control advertising and production for a manned space flight to Venus. He has to juggle his new responsibilities which include fending off the resentment of other unsuccessful executives with his prolonged courtship of Kathy who blows hot and cold and at the moment seems to be trying to avoid any commitment. It is very much a sort of here and now scenario with any background to the rise of the conglomerate companies kept to a minimum as the novel is intent in taking off on its path through action and adventure country. Not only does Mitch have to fend off attacks from within the company, but there is also a rival conglomerate who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends and in addition there is an underground group of “consies” the WCA or World Conservation Association. In no time at all there are attempts on Mitch’s life and he finds himself stripped of all authority working as a labourer amongst the slave like conditions of much of the addicted population. The rest of the story is the struggle to regain his position and an unconvincing conversion to the “consies” cause.

The book paints a picture of a dystopian future with a small minority of executive figures manipulating the lives of the vast majority of addicted consumers, but too much is taken for granted as far as this reader was concerned. We get glimpses of this future world which seem to me to serve more as a convenient background for the thrills of the action adventure and the working of the plot. It is in keeping with much American science fiction of the time with the central premise that energy, hard work and a dare devil approach to life will lead to success. In my opinion this novel deserves its position as one that stands out from the crowd (early 1950’s science fiction) because of its plethora of ideas and glimpses of a believable future and the writing is decent enough, but it wasn’t much of a crowd. A thriller dressed up as science fiction or science fiction that wants to be a fast paced thriller, it seems to be caught between the two and so 3.5 stars. ( )
4 vote baswood | Mar 8, 2019 |
This was weird... but I liked it. I think. It is a madcap adventure set in a dystopian world ruled by advertising companies and consumerism. The world is overpopulated, resources exploited, environment ruined, a ruling elite exploits “consumers” whom they addict to products and keep enslaved in perpetual debt to the company. An underground organisation, the “consies” are fighting against waste, exploitation of the Earth’s resources and corporations... and Mitch Courteney is all caught up in it.

It is a crazy story of crossings and double-crossings, a satire of consumerism and corporate greed, with an environmentalist bend... a mystery, an adveture, a love story, a business interest war... it is quite unlike anything I have ever read. Slow starting but fun from about 40% in. ( )
  Gezemice | Oct 29, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (96 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frederik Pohlprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kornbluth, C.M.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Bittner, DanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Negretti, AndreinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover Artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, KarelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As I dressed that morning I ran over in my mind the long list of statistics, evasions, and exaggerations, that they would expect in my report.
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