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The Space Merchants. A novel [Unknown Binding]

Frederik Pohl , Cyril M. Kornbluth
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0017DPRNY
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,110,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Venus For Sale 31 July 2009
By Dave_42
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Short and sweet - 4.5 stars! 31 Jan 2006
The Space Merchants is a superb little novel that can be enjoyed relatively quickly by all ages. It is a fast-paced, lesser-known book that is rightly part of the SF Masterworks series and indeed is considered by some to be in the top 20 sci-fi books of all time.
Mitch Courtenay is a star-class copywriter in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency who has been tasked with turning Venus into an attractive proposition for potential colonists. This much is known if you read the blurb at the back of the book but I was surprised at how much it deviated away from this and went into the realms of class-differences, environmentalism and corporate back-stabbing. Some of the ideas in this book may seem dated but it does feature two of the most original and interesting characters in any story. Jack O’Shea is a dwarf who was the first man on Venus who is now taking revenge on women who spurned him all his life by sleeping with many as possible. Chicken Little is a 15 yard wide living piece of protein that is routinely sliced to feed workers. I guess having two authors means twice the imagination!
The story is told from Mitch’s point of view which for its short length is perfect and I disagree with a previous comment that it felt laboured. I found the writing style to be perfectly adequate; it was witty, smart and sometimes completely irreverent which in the sometimes overly-serious world of science fiction I found wonderfully refreshing. Perhaps the only weakness I can see is that the characterization sometimes suffers especially as there are quite few of them over the course of 190-odd pages.
The corporate world features quite extensively throughout the novel and can be compared to Alfred Bester’s classic The Demolished Man.
Highly recommended.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serise delivers another gem 7 Feb 2004
This book is amazing. It is a keen satire on the rise of advertising and rampant consumerism, writen nearly 50 years ago.
Fair enough, the ending is slightly limp but the whole story and the vivid characterisation, (lovely use of the unsympathetic protagonist), all add up to a really fantastic read. It isn't boring, I could have finished it the day I started if I hadn't been doing anything else.
If you like astute well writen intellegent and exciting fiction (science fiction or otherwise) you'll like this.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I first read this book twenty years ago and have just re-read it. It was written in the early fifties and describes what could arguably be described as the inevitable consequences for society of capitalism. Frederick Pohl, having been an advertising copywriter, writes in a simple style which suits his subject matter perfectly. Basically, the advertising agencies rule the world - 2 advertising agencies to be precise. In order to be a part of society, and there is enormous pressure to be so, you have to be a "good consumer" - buying and becoming addicted to whatever the agencies sell to you. The "baddies" are the consies - conservationists who endeavour to fight this most terrifying system where wood is the most valuable commodity as there is hardly any left. I have often thought what a good film this would make, but then having read the book again I realise that nobody in our 'system' would be brave enough! I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Criticism of Modern Consumer Society 13 Sep 2003
Like the title of this review says the book is excellent. It is a critic of modern society but it avoids politicizing the issue and just makes some thoughtful remarks. Don't be mistaken it is critical, but not in the traditional right or left sense. It is more humanist I believe. Anyhow, the book is great and there is a compelling story to keep you interested. It's not all critic. There is a good story in there. If you've read "1984", "Brave New World" or "Fahrenheit 451" this is a logical follow up.
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