Friday, June 7, 2013

Book Review: Frederik Pohl's Gateway

The SF Book discussion group met again to discuss Pohl's 1976 novel Gateway. This is the first in a trilogy that includes Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and Heechee Rendezvous. In Gateway, we meet Robinet (Bob) Broadhead, a man made wealthy by prospecting the ancient space lanes blazed by a long-dead and forgotten species called the "Heechee".

Through a stroke of luck, bob wins enough money in a lottery to purchase a ticket to Gateway, an intergalactic hub of sorts where prospectors can "ship out" on pre-programmed (by the Heechee) routes and return to Gateway automatically. The catch is that no one knows where the ships go until someone tries them out. Some end up in ... let's just say that some trips are no longer "round trips". Basically, the prospectors take a gamble and may strike it rich finding a treasure trove of ancient alien artifacts at their destinations or they may find nothing or they may perish in the process.

The appeal of this book is the unfolding of Bob's tale. We learn early that he is clearly wealthy and gained his wealth through prospecting from Gateway. We also learn that he is wracked by neuroses of various sorts as he frequently visits his digital shrink that he has dubbed "Sigfrid".

Various mysteries unfold as the book progresses and we follow, in a back-and-forth manner, the developments that form the Bob Broadhead we meet at the beginning of the book.

The general consensus of our group was that the book was a good one, despite dating itself in a few minor ways. I have mentioned before that the HPL SF group is a pretty tough crowd and this book was not treated as roughly as some of our previous selections. Personally, I highly recommend the book. Despite having read it many years ago and knowing where Bob's tale would lead, I enjoyed Pohl's story-telling again this time through.

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