James's Reviews > Gateway

Gateway by Frederik Pohl
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M 50x66
's review
May 02, 2010

really liked it
Read in May, 2010

This is more like it. The second of today's two Hugo-winners, Gateway was tremendously satisfying. The premise is heavier on the "fiction" than the "science"--an ancient and extinct culture from Venus left an asteroid filled with wacky ships that will travel unimaginable distances. Yet, because the controls are inscrutable to humans, crews never know where they're going--or whether they will even return alive. But success can mean great wealth and security on an overcrowded future Earth, so some folks take a stab at it. Our protagonist, Robinette Broadhead, has made three trips, the last of which made him rich beyond words, but also left him emotionally scarred.

Pohl writes in tidy prose, with characters which are believable if not necessarily likable. His real innovation is that Broadhead and his fellow prospectors are not swashbuckling can-doers. Instead, they are scared shitless, and spend most of their time on the asteroid drinking and finding reasons NOT to get on the next ship to who knows where. Relationships between the prospectors are compelling, and really form the basis for the conflict in the story.

The only critique is the psychotherapy robot who counsels Broadhead after his missions. It just seems a bit silly.

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