Mary's Reviews > The Space Merchants

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
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Mar 12, 12

bookshelves: have-ebook, read-since-joining-goodreads
Read from February 15 to March 08, 2012

This is a satire on the advertising business...sort of "Mad Men" of the future. It was originally published in the 1950s so it is of course a bit outdated. I understand Pohl recently came out with an updated version where he has made some minor changes mostly updating the technology and adding a few more contemporary corporate names like WalMart and Enron. I've also read though that the original 50s vernacular suits the story better.

The book opens with Mitch Courtenay, a "copysmith" in one of the largest advertising agencies, Fowler Schocken, who is put in charge of the ad campaign to attract settlers to embark on a one way trip to Venus to start the terraforming of that planet. The U.S. (and Earth as a whole) has become overcrowded, polluted and scarce on resources and food. How well you live is totally dependent on whether you are a member of the elite "star class" or of the lowly consumers. U.S. Congress is now run by the Senator from Nabisco....the Congressman from General Motors...the Senator from Dow, etc. and the POTUS has been reduced to a powerless position who has to beg Congress to even be allowed to attend one of their hearings and who has to take unescorted, unprotected taxi rides like any other low level bureaucrat. Throw into the mix the rival ad agency Taunton's and the "consies", the conservationists/environmentalists, and you have a pretty exciting race to see who can hold on to the Venus deal and thus control the future income stream from the new resources and consumers sure to come (or, in the Consies' case, a chance to start society over like they think it should be run).

Despite being overly dramatic in some parts, condescending to everyone (especially women)throughout most of it and containing not even one sympathetic character, "The Space Merchants" is a very easy and enjoyable read and a smart pithy commentary on the inevitable depletion of the planet's resources and the U.S.'s mindless march to plutarchy.
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