The Space Merchants
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The Space Merchants (The Space Merchants #1)

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  5,019 ratings  ·  235 reviews
It is the 20th Century, an advertisement-drenched world in which the big ad agencies dominate governments and everything else. Now Schoken Associates, one of the big players, has a new challenge for star copywriter Mitch Courtenay. Volunteers are needed to colonise Venus. It's a hellhole, and nobody who knew anything about it would dream of signing up. But by the time Mitc...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 12th 1981 by Del Rey (first published August 1952)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sue
It's an interesting concept: a society entirely based on consumer consumption. Advertising is king, with a huge divide between the "haves" and the "have nots". Our protagonist is a high level executive in one of the biggest advertising firms, and is completely indoctrinated in the cult of advertising. He scoffs at the "Consies" (we would call them Environmentalists today) for wanting to save the environment, because, after all, technology has always kept ahead of ecological collapse. Yet he has...more
Scott Holstad
I really enjoyed this cynical and satirical sci fi novel. It's about Mitchell Courtenay, a high ranking ad exec in a futuristic American society dominated by advertising. Indeed, it's virtually un-patriotic to not adhere to advertising's role in society. Mitch is given the assignment of leading his firm's intention of colonizing Venus, even though it's not remotely habitable, by making American suckers go there based on his expertise in advertising. The book starts taking some bizarre twists at...more
tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE
review of
Frederik Pohl & C.M.Kornbluth's The Space Merchants
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - December 13, 2011

WOW. WOW. For those of us who love the writings of Philip K. Dick (just about everyone who reads SF, I reckon) this is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It's the only bk that I've read that I'd say is PROTO-P.K.DICK. It's as good as Dick, PUBLISHED 3 YRS BEFORE DICK'S 1ST PUBLISHED NOVEL WAS: The Space Merchants was published in 1952? in Galaxy & in 1953 as a bk & Dick's Solar Lottery wa...more
Sophia Ramos
As far as Science Fiction novels go, I suppose this one was a winner, but as far as my own general taste, it was just...okay. There were definitely things I liked, like the Commie/Consie parallels and Pohl and Kornbluth's intense intuition on the environmentalist mentality of the current age. But things like the ins and outs of advertising, and every single "death" scene in the novel, left my head spinning in confusion. This is certainly not a book to breeze through. Rather, it's one that you sh...more
Antonio
Esta obra llamó mi atención cuando leí sobre ella en la biografía de Isaac Asimov, ya que Frederik Pohl fue uno de los grandes valedores en los inicios de Asimov. Anoté el nombre de la novela atraido por su temática y por su buenas críticas, y, meses después, apenas me ha durado una semana.

Pohl y Kornbluth nos trasladan a una utopía/distopía situada en el futuro donde los poderes políticos han perdido poder en favor de las grandes compañías, las cuales controlan el mundo. La novela la vivimos en...more
Joe Snodgrass
Apr 05, 2014 Joe Snodgrass rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sci Fi and politicos
Recommended to Joe by: Books set in Costa Rica list
I kept checking the copyright date, yes 1952. Unbelievably prescient story about the power of a consumerism culture run rampant, and the ways humans will bond together to form cultures, and subscribe to them with varying degrees of awareness. Engaging story too, liberal sprinkling of humor and suspense, even a love element worked in (but not in a banal way). My original interest in this book was as a story set in Costa Rica - that it is not, very little insight into CR culture, geography, people...more
Joshua Zucker
This is pretty amazing for a book written in 1950. There's seeing the future of environmental crisis if not catastrophe, with overpopulation/open space and fresh water being the scarcest things, as well as oil having run out. The overpopulation is largely the result of marketing, too -- we need to have more and more people to consume more and more so that we can keep selling more and more. Pretty nice. There's also a lovely bit near the beginning:

"Our representative government now is perhaps mor...more
Badseedgirl
When I first started reading Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth, I just assumed it was their attempt to cash in on the “Mad Men craze”. I mean what was I to think a story about a futuristic society where advertisers rule the world, literally. The little voice in my head, which has helped me write other reviews said, “Well this is a good Mad Men rip off, but I mean I would expect more from a supposed ‘Grand Master’ of Science fiction.” (What can I say that little voice can be pr...more
Alex Bergonzini
Hay libros que son atemporales y hay libros que tienen que enmarcarse en la época en la cual fueron escritos. Con la ciencia ficción queda muy latente como imaginaban el futuro y ahora que estamos en el futuro su imagen queda muy desfasada. Con Mercaderes del espacio ocurre justamente esto. Hay que situarse en 1953 e imaginar que la distopía que discurre entre sus páginas será posible.

No obstante, hay algo raro en esta historia, hay tramos donde las historia transcurre a saltos, te encuentras en...more
Ashley
In this futuristic world of Mad Men gone wrong, Mitch Courtenay, a star class copysmith at Fowler Schoken Associates, finds himself head of the the illustrious Venus Project. The project entails selling the average American consumer on the toxic environs of Venus as the next great frontier in order to exploit it. He finds himself thrust into a world filled with threats everywhere, within and outside. Who can he trust and who can't he trust?

First, in Frederick Pohl's favor, I like books that get...more
Betty Cross
In a future world dominated by the advertising industry, a naive young account executive struggles to work his way up, only to find himself plunged into misfortunes that expose the harmsful effects on out-of-control consumerism on most of the population, not to mention the world's environment. Written in the 1950s, this book has gained relevance with time, and deserves to be far more famous than it is.
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Classic Science F...: * Jan-Feb 2014 Buddy Read: The Space Merchants 3 14 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 52 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.
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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.” 2 likes
“You can't trust reason. We threw it out of the ad profession long ago and have never missed it.” 1 likes
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