Gateway (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 13 May 1999
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Some SF writers have astonishingly long productive careers. Frederik Pohl started in 1940 and with Cyril Kornbluth co-wrote such classic 1950s satires as The Space Merchants. He won Hugo and Nebula awards for the 1977 Gateway, a major novel combining classic SF excitement with psychological depth and now reissued in Millennium SF Masterworks. The compelling central idea is Gateway itself, an asteroid base stuffed with abandoned interstellar ships built by the mysterious, elusive alien "Heechee". These tiny vessels can travel on autopilot to countless unknown destinations. Some human passengers return with fabulous technologies and scientific insights, others empty-handed. Many more die from incomprehensible hazards at journey's end, or from lack of food or air in overlong round-trips. So the atmosphere of the human community at Gateway is uniquely edgy, halfway between a gold-rush town and Death Row. Pohl's unheroic hero Broadhead has both good and bad luck in Heechee craft, emerging with riches and terrible loss. We learn the shattering story of what happened in successive flashbacks, while the engaging, scene-stealing AI psychology software called Sigfrid patiently tries to put Broadhead together again. Gateway is witty and humane, full of clever insights, ingenious asides and claustrophobic drama. Its sequels are less impressive. --David Langford
One of the very best must-read SF novels of all time. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
I read this about 20 years ago, not long after it came out in 1977, and again a couple of times since. Probably my favourite Pohl book. It's the story of a man named Robinette Broadhead, his struggle to survive and make it rich in a world where most people are poor. On an asteroid named Gateway, a long-gone species of aliens called the Heechee left a thousand of their spaceships. No one knows how they work, but it is possible to operate them, to go to preprogrammed destinations elsewhere in the galaxy. Sometimes the crew bring back valuable discoveries. Sometimes they come back dead, or not at all. It's also the story of Broadhead's guilt at letting something terrible happen to his girlfriend, Klara, and how he learns to deal with that.
What makes the story for me is a mixture of things - Pohl's use of sidebars to give us a picture of the world the story is set in, for instance. The sense of mystery created by the fact that no one really knows what they're doing with the Heechee ships. His telling of the story in the form of flashbacks interspersed with sessions with Broadhead's psychoanalyst (who is a computer programme). Even the way it ends so suddenly, in just a page or so, when the actions that Broadhead spends years regretting flash by in a blur...
Well worth anyone's money, I'd say, and certainly an appropriate addition to the SF Masterworks series.
If you enjoy this, go on & read the other Heechee books, such as Beyond the Blue Event Horizon & Heechee Rendezvous - Pohl has created a fascinating Universe to set these stories in!
The central character Robinette Broadhead is a complex person teetering dangerously on the edge of sanity, and his tale is interwoven with counselling sessions with his computer therapist Sigfrid who manages to steal every scene in which he appears.
It is a long time since I was able to lose myself in the mystique of a sci fi novel like this. Questions such as who were the Heechee who built these ships, where did they go, and what awaits humans who try to make use of their barely understood technology will keep you turning the pages to the very end.
I cannot stress how highly I regard this book. Buy it now or forever wonder what you missed.
The author, Frederik Pohl, lived from 1919 to 2013 and published science fiction prolifically on and off over about 70 years, during which time he must have seen some of his imagined ideas of the future become reality, others disproved and some surpassed beyond all expectation.
Reviews suggest that some of his works are much better than others. I am unlikely to want to read them all. However, having initially come across his interesting 1988 short story `Waiting for the Olympians' in an anthology, Amazon reviews guided me to the novels `Gateway' and `Man Plus' as among his best, for which thank you, fellow reviewers.
Few things date more quickly than the future. A novel like this written in the 1970s inevitably gets some things right and others wrong about how technology and human society will develop. Read decades later they usually display what now appear some anachronistically old-fashioned attitudes set in what is meant to be the future. This book, like the author's other great achievement written the year before, Man Plus (S.F. MASTERWORKS) is post-sexual revolution but pre-politically correct feminism. However, it is said to be the first science fiction novel to make use of the then new theory of black holes.
What it has going for it above all is a good story, including danger and mystery, and an effectively imagined society far enough in the future to be different from ours but close enough that much is comprehensible without needing too much explanation.Read more ›
The narrative is cleverly peppered with scientifically accurate contributions about neutron stars, black holes and the dilation of time around such singularities. Pohl brilliantly constructs a tangible space community with a convincing ethos, population and culture skilfully sketched through the inclusion: of resident’s letters, adverts and mission reports.
This is a study of fear, desperation and the pioneering spirit of humanity. The claustrophobia of the semi lit Heechee tunnels of Gateway and spacecraft adroitly create tension and suspense throughout.
At the heart of the narrative is also a pleasing theme of guilt as the flawed central character struggles to come to terms with the consequences of his own survival. This is developed through the dialogue between Brodhead and his AI psychotherapist the juxtaposition between who serves to illuminate the former and the reader as to what it is to be human.
Pohl writes with fluidity and pace and uses comic one-liners to great effect. This is an accomplished piece of writing which is convincing on many levels.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent example of science fiction, definitely worth reading, this book is now one of my all time favouritesPublished 14 days ago by Amazon Customer
Another great work of fiction by Pohl. I decided to read this after being blown away by 'Man Plus'. Although I thought Man Plus was a better novel, this still impressed me. Read morePublished 2 months ago by T. Boy74
This book features in the top three on every list of great sci-fi books - or in fact just books - that I have ever compiled. Read morePublished 5 months ago by hattie
What a great book. If you're reading reviews then you must have read the blurb already and know about the Gateway space station, and the agonisingly mysterious heechee (and their... Read morePublished 5 months ago by james
An interesting book, well written, interesting cover. Would read again.Published 8 months ago by penguni
The discovery of an ancient abandoned alien space station together with hundreds of ships is an interesting premiss, but the execution feels terribly dated now – in fact the book... Read morePublished 12 months ago by M. D. Harris