The Space Merchants by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

The Space Merchants (The Space Merchants, #1)The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pohl’s 1952 satirical treatment of consumerism and mercantilism seems dated these days, but overall it stands the test of time. At some point in future America, advertising agencies are the highest ranking employment and societal strata. They control Congress and the presidency. The highest legal authority is the Chamber of Commerce. The populace is divided into consumers and copysmiths, i.e. ad men. Mitch, the central character, is an ambitious copysmith who lands the Venus contract. His agency is seeking to commercialize the planet, notwithstanding the fact that it’s essentially uninhabitable at present. That’s a mere niggling detail for the engineers and Production Department to handle. The important thing is to convince people they want to go to Venus and buy Venus goods, etc. But there are evil opposition forces at work – the Consies (conservationists) who spout blasphemy such as opposing pollution and despoliation of the planet – both planets. You get the idea.

Mitch gets kidnapped, tattooed to appear to be a consumer (gasp!), and stuck in a consumer job. He learns what it’s like to be part of the masses and it isn’t pretty. The book is very well written and quite humorous in places, at times intentionally, and in others, accidentally. It’s always amusing to read old sci-fi that is set in the far future only to find that everyone communicates by fax and landlines, smokes cigarettes, and has female secretaries who type memos. Pohl’s dystopia is very imaginative, but I will refrain from spoiling the fun for you with further description.

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.