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The Space Merchants (The Space Merchants #1)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  5,933 ratings  ·  289 reviews
In this classic send-up of American commercialism, a near-future earth is resource-depleted but callously ruled by advertising, splitting society between all-powerful ad agencies & exploited consumers. Mitchell Courtenay is a glib ad-exec who has just landed the assignment of a lifetime: enticing consumers to colonize Venus. So what if the atmosphere reeks of formalde ...more
Hardcover, 154 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by SFBC (first published August 1952)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Simon
I was blown away by this satirical and cynical novel. I couldn't believe how fresh it felt, even sixty years after it was originally published, it's still so pertinent, so topical. I would not have been surprised to find out it was written twenty years after it was.

Reading up about the origins of this novel, I was amazed to discover that Pohl actually decided to get a job in advertising just so he could know the industry better and write about it with more authority. And yes, one certainly feels
...more
Brad
Never have I read such a marvelously plausible work of Science Fiction. There are many prophetic works, and plenty of works of farther distant futures that I can see being possible, but The Space Merchants is mostly here right now, and everything else (if you exchange Mars for Venus) is merely moments away. And that is a scary fucking proposition.

Pohl & Kornbluth's world is an overpopulated mess, where food and water are at a serious premium and the super-rich dominate the use of goods and
...more
Lyn
I like Frederik Pohl more and more the more of his books I read.

Space Merchants, first published in 1952 is a science fiction gem. Telling the tale of a capitalistic-anarchic society from the perspective of an advertising executive, Pohl describes a world where ancient maxims have been turned upside down – such as “Power enables, and absolute power enables absolutely.”

Our hero is living the dream amidst a world of over-population and contract labor consumerism. Then corporate espionage and the n
...more
Oscar
En un futuro cercano, surge el Proyecto Venus, que tiene como misión colonizar dicho planeta. La Tierra está superpoblada y sobreexplotada y está dominada por grandes corporaciones publicitarias. El mundo se divide en Consumidores, Productores y Ejecutivos. Es entonces cuando surge la gran oportunidad para las empresas de publicidad: dirigir la campaña para potenciar la colonización de Venus. Dicho contrato al final ha caído en manos de la Sociedad Fowler Schocken, a la que pertenece el protagon ...more
Stephen
4.0 stars. One of the better collaborations between Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth. Excellent world-building and an intelligent, satirical plot make this one of the better books from this period.
Nancy Oakes
Awesome book! Hard to believe this was written like 50+ years ago, because it is so incredibly relevant to our modern times. For example: it takes a look at the dangers of imperialistic corporations & greed, the plight of workers and the ungodly conditions under which some of them have to work, the clear and unmistakeable division of class in society, the total lack of concern for the environment and the treatment of those who care about it and want change. Good grief! To say that it was way ...more
Jim Mcclanahan
First time I've read this novel in decades. I am quite sure that I considered it "far-fetched" in the 1960s. Hey, how crazy can you get: Congress controlled by corporate entities; conservationists vilified as anarchists; food and beverages adulterated beyond belief, corporate espionage driven to life/death levels; Severe shortages in fossil fuels and clean water. Hmm, so where do "chicken tenders" really come from? Maybe from "Chicken Little".

And in my undergraduate days, I worked part time for
...more
Werner
May 09, 2008 Werner rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All science fiction fans
Recommended to Werner by: It was required reading for I correspondence course in science f
Shelves: science-fiction
As a young man, Pohl worked for an advertising agency, and the experience left him with both an insider's understanding of, and a profound distaste for, psychological manipulation for profit, hucksterism, and the whole mentality of material consumption for its own sake. That understanding and distaste provide the theme for a lot of his short fiction; and they're very evident in this novel (which is probably the best and most perceptive dystopian vision from its generation), which conjures a futu ...more
Elizabeth
This was a reread of one the books that first got me into science fiction and it was totally worth rereading all these years later.

One of things I really enjoy about fifties sci-fi was the sparse writing style. In well under two hundred pages you get amazing world building and a brilliant storyline. So many great ideas for a slightly terrifying but believable future world are evoked but not explained to death leaving your imagination free to run wild. The concept of 'chicken little' had remaine
...more
Rhys
Quite simply one of the best science fiction novels published in the 1950s (only Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, Brian Aldiss' Non Stop and Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan truly compare)... This satire on the advertising industry is so far ahead of its time that I was staggered! The world it depicts resembles the future Earth of the film Blade Runner perhaps even more accurately and acutely than Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? does... I must keep a look ...more
Nikki
The Space Merchants has a very 1984 feel: the underground movement, the profession of the main character... but it's very different as well. A similar situation, if you like, but with a capitalist society taken to the extremes rather than a socialist one. I'm surprised at people saying it feels outdated; I'm with the people who feel it still seems surprisingly relevant for something written in the 1950s.

It's a very quick read, and one worth reading not so much for characters or relationships, bu
...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Science Fiction as a prescient guide to future technology and society has never much interested me. I read recently that Jules Verne kept abreast of all the latest scientific journals just to up his odds on getting something right. But even with his background research he came up mostly with plots that today are absurd given almost any background in science. Occasionally you read that some writer predicted the internet or the types of computers that we now take for granted. And they "predicted" ...more
Adam Denny
Written in 1950, this novel can be seen as an American response to George Orwell's "1984." One of the most unbelievable aspects of that novel was that Ingsoc, English Socialism, would somehow come to dominate the United States. What happens is far more likely; the most base and brutal expression of American capitalism taking over the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. 85% of the population are classed as Consumers, only good for what they can contribute to the economy. Congress directly ...more
Veeral
This is a book that has aged well. The first half is way better than the last one and the prose seems somewhat disjointed in the second half comparatively, but even then this was a good experience.

It has a dystopian setting where the world is divided essentially in two parts. The producers and the consumers. Mitchell Courtenay works with Fowler Schocken Associates which is an advertising agency and is assigned the ad campaign that would attract colonists to Venus; more accurately, duping them t
...more
Andreas
This dystopian satire about advertising agencies which rule the world was written in 1952. Which means, it was pre-Computer miniaturization, before industrial automation and of course before cell phones and the internet revolution.
Sometimes, this doesn't matter when reading classical sci fi. I simply ignore or smile about actors who stop for a telephone cell to call someone or having to flight in person to achieve something.
But in this novel, the antique technology projection into the future d
...more
Jlawrence
A science-fiction satire on advertising and consumerism run amok written in the early '50s (so, yes, parts of it play a little like Mad Men...of the future!). Second half is not quite as good as the first half, some of it is dated, but nonetheless a fun read, with a lot still dead-on, relevant and funny. Part of what helps is that the protagonist Mitch, whose values you are to deplore, is nonetheless very smart and amusing.

A couple of quotes - Mitch's boss talking to him about Mitch's official s
...more
Trevor
I’ve had a very miss-and-miss relationship with recent novels and short stories that, claiming to be science fiction, venture into our future a few years to some kind of corporate dystopia. It’s not that I don’t take the threat seriously, but the refrain is so familiar and blunt. It doesn’t challenge our perspectives or incite us to action. It’s become a formula: plug in a few references to current companies merged into super giants, like AmExDisneyGoldman; show that people are oblivious to thei ...more
Chelsea
The concept of this book was genius--the authors imagine a world in which advertisers control the world, and citizens are more loyal to their favorite brand names than their country. Mitch Courtenay works for one of the world's super advertising agencies, and he is put in charge of the newest ad campaign: selling the colonization of Venus. With Earth's current overcrowding problem, it shouldn't be too hard of a sell, but a million other factors seem to complicate Mitch's progress. There are the ...more
Ümit
Sandığımdan çok daha sevdim, reklamcılık ve tüketim alışkanlıkları, şirketlerin hukuku hiçe saymaları, hiç fark etmiyor, hâlâ.

"B sınıfı iş sözleşmesinin mantığını kapmıştım. Ne yapıp etsen borçlanmaktan kurtulamıyordun. Kolaylıkla verilen krediler sistemin bir parçasıydı, insanı bu kredileri kullanmaya mecbur bırakan simsarlar da öyleydi. Her haftayı on dolar açıkla kapatırsam sözleşmemin bitiminde Chlorella'ya bin yüz dolar borçlu olacak ve borç silinene kadar da çalışmak zorunda kalacaktım. Ve
...more
Lee
Incredibly fun and prescient satire of marketing and the commercialization of democracy. My only complaint is the brevity of the book, though Pohl and Kornbluth pack a lot into these 170 pages. I'm also not fully convinced by Mitch's "Consie" change of heart at the end of the novel. Far better would have been to jettison the "happy" ending for an exploration of the true heart of cynicism.
David
Utterly brilliant. I adore this book. And I'm really happy I read this revised edition. I would strongly suggest that everyone ignore the earlier version. This is something every college student should read. It's as vital today as it was when it first appeared.
j
Great fun if "Mad Men in space" sounds like money to you. In the future, all women will revert to 1950s stereotypes, and all men will be Don Draper.
Jonathan-David Jackson
I had high expectations because of the quote on the cover - "Has many claims to being the best science fiction novel so far." Pretty high praise. What I didn't know is that the quote is about 60 years old, and quite a few science fiction novels have been written since then.

It's a good novel, in a dystopian world where everything is ultra-commercialized and capitalism has its tentacles all over your face. It's interesting and fairly exciting, but there isn't enough to draw me back in for the othe
...more
Filomena
Ultimamente, più leggo e più penso che davvero sia già stato scritto tutto e che ogni nuova idea, non è nuova per niente.

Questo romanzo è stato pubblicato nel 1953, ma sembra che Pohl e Kornbluth l’abbiano scritto ieri: è di un’attualità disarmante!

Ma ciò che più mi sconvolge è che, nonostante loro avessero già narrato cosa potesse accadere agli uomini in balia della pubblicità, proprio ieri leggevo che secondo una statistica, ognuno di noi è oggetto di circa 3.000 (TREMILA) messaggi pubblicitar
...more
Chris
Funny and surprisingly relevant, this space satire from 1952 sticks the details like crazy. In the future, senators represent not constituents, but companies ("The senator from Yummy Cola will now take the podium"), ad agencies are warring nation-states, and the stakes inflate to a planetary size. The advertising agency of Fowler Schocken & Associates has just levered Indiastries -- the subcontinent of Indian is now one large corporation -- and has its site set on something bigger...Venus.

Ve
...more
Perry Whitford
Ad-men vs Conservationists for the control of the planet Venus in a celebrated science-fiction classic from the 'Golden Age'.

Fowler Schocken Associates already controlled Earth. Now, as the first spaceship of colonists were about to go to Venus, the unscrupulous marketing and manufacturing corporation wanted to establish itself a monopoly on a new world.

Mitchell Courtenay, a zealot of the copywriter's creed, is given control. He expects difficulties but isn't prepared for just how far their riva
...more
Dave
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 to
...more
Tony
THE SPACE MERCHANTS. (1953). Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth. ***.
This was included in the collection from The Library of America in “American Science Fiction 1953-1956.” As a strange coincidence, this was the year that I began reading science fiction (at thirteen years old). I probably read this book, since it seemed familiar, but after all these years, who knows. It’s the story of the war between two mega advertising agencies in the far future. They are both after the same account which i
...more
Raj
Venus is being opened up for colonisation, and Fowler Schocken Associates wants to be the first, and only, advertising agency there. In this grimly plausible future that Pohl and Kornbluth have established, advertising is the be all and end all of life with the majority working in labyrinthine contracts they have no hope of breaking out of in effective slavery for life. Democracy is a parody of itself, with senators representing companies, not people and those companies are in hock to the advert ...more
Leo Walsh
I've never been much of a fan of Frederick Pohl. His characters to me always seem two dimensional. His male protagonists are too good-looking and manly, and the heroines too good looking and womanly. His plotting a bit silly and obvious. But his settings are good. For instance, most fans of SF class Gateway among the greatest SF books ever. I was let down by the story. And questioned whether any person would pay big money, as Pohl's premise has it, to play at a game that would either make you ...more
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Classic Science F...: * Jan-Feb 2014 Buddy Read: The Space Merchants 3 16 Jan 21, 2014 01:15PM  
Classic Science F...: When the future is now 1 11 Sep 09, 2013 04:38AM  
Sci-fi and Heroic...: The Space Merchants 18 54 Jul 26, 2013 01:11PM  
Sci-fi and Heroic...: July 2013 Classic Novel nominations 14 58 Jun 22, 2013 04:10AM  
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Frederik George Pohl, Jr. was an American science fiction writer, editor & fan, with a career spanning over seventy years. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited "Galaxy" magazine and its sister magazine "IF", winning the Hugo for "IF" three years in a row. His writing also won him three Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards. He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993.
More about Frederik Pohl...

Other Books in the Series

The Space Merchants (2 books)
  • The Merchants' War (The Space Merchants, # 2)
Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1) Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (Heechee Saga, #2) Man Plus Heechee Rendezvous (Heechee Saga, #3) The Annals of the Heechee (Heechee Saga, #4)

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“There are only so many people capable of putting together words that stir and move and sing. When it became possible to earn a very good living in advertising by exercising this capability, lyric poetry was left to untalented screwballs who had to shriek for attention and compete by eccentricity.” 3 likes
“Mi sentido de la iniciativa, la cualidad que me había llevado a ser lo que era, estaba agonizando poco a poco. Las dosis mínimas de alcaloides me paralizaban la voluntad, pero peor aún era esa sensación de impotencia y desesperanza. Pensaba ya que así era el mundo, que nunca cambiaría, que al fin y al cabo esto no era tan terrible, que uno siempre podía entrar en trance ante una hermosa pantalla o emborracharse con Gaseosa, o probar una de esas cápsulas verdes que pasaban de mano en mano con diversas consignas. Los muchachos esperarían con agrado el día de cobro.” 1 likes
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