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The Space Merchants Paperback – August 15, 1958


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (August 15, 1958)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312749511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312749514
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A novel of the future that the present must inevitably rank as a classic.”—The New York Times

About the Author

FREDERIK POHL’s writing career spans over seventy years. He won the National Book Award in 1980 for his novel Jem. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy magazine and its sister magazine, If, winning the Hugo Award for it three years in a row. His writing also won him four Hugos and multiple Nebula Awards. He became a Nebula Grand Master in 1993. Pohl won the 2010 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, based on his writing on his blog, “The Way the Future Blogs.”


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Customer Reviews

A mind is a horrible thing to waste...on _things_.
Socrates2
In the book, the marketing people are very happy with the decrease in average intelligence of the world population.
Wendy van Dijk
One of the best 50s sf novels I've had the pleasure to read.
woofer.carter@kcl.ac.uk

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Davis on March 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Written over 50 years ago, this book anticipated much of what is wrong in the world we now live in -including corporate imperialism, environmental degradation and the villification of conservationists, the replacement of humanity with two categories of people -those who sell and those who consume, the death of spiritual values and the total ascendancy of materialism. Pohl and Kornbluth have created a materialist, consumerist dystopia that ranks with Vonnegut's Player Piano (also written in the early 1950s), and anticipates books like Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero and Joseph Heller's Catch 22. And, like the latter books, it manages somehow to be funny much of the time. What a tremendous loss it was for science fiction, and literature in general, when Cyril Kornbluth died prematurely. He had the makings of another Swift, if only he could have lived another 20 years.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Paul Weiss on November 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
Brilliantly written in the 1950s, "The Space Merchants" is a deeply cynical and darkly prescient dystopian novel in which advertising, conspicuous consumption and capitalism have run rampant in a world beset with overpopulation and environmental degradation.

Mitch Courtenay is an executive copywriter with Fowler Schocken, an advertising agency that has been given the task of selling the notion of colonizing Venus, an environmental hell-hole, to an over-populated and environmentally stressed earth. Courtenay, born with a proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and unaccustomed to anything but a pampered lifestyle is attacked by a deadly corporate conspiracy, robbed of his identity and imprisoned in an impoverished third world environment, the very existence of which came as a complete shock to him.

At the end of the day, whether you believe Courtenay to be an incorrigible villain or a reformed conservationist, "The Space Merchants" is a soft sci-fi classic well ahead of its time that explores thought-provoking themes and disturbing political issues that will be with us for many years to come. A gripping novel that well deserves it place in classic sci-fi libraries.

Paul Weiss
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Socrates2 on March 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
I agree with most reviewers on _Space Merchants_. Some have even thrown in a spoiler (rather, _told_ the entire story!) so I won't comment more on the character's actions, adventures, and the fast-paced storyline.
Some of the science is dreadfully dated but a good story outlives such detail especially when the science is not the point of this novel.
It is part Fritz Lang's "Metropolis," part "Soylent Green," part "Sullivan's Travels," part "Count of Monte Cristo" but it is all about class war! The profiteers/marketing men on one side and consumers on the other.
I find authors Pohl and Kornbluth fascinating. What did they observe in the late 40's and early 50's that led them to anticipate that someday corporations would be running the United States? That advertising would have such an impact that consumers' urges, habits, and compulsions would become one with the use of the product?
What is truly frightening is that such a seditious book was written as a clear warning to our parents and grandparents and yet _nothing was done to stop_ a Madison Avenue and Wall Street political coup. Perhaps SF was considered so arcane and marginal that this book sailed under Joe McCarthy's radar, otherwise both authors would surely have been subpena'd for their, ahem, "views." The sad part is, it also sailed under most of thoughtful America's radar at the time!
Today, 56 years later--for anyone who has been paying attention--we have a stratified underclass; a clueless, bubbled-in ruling class that has _no idea_ how "the other half" lives; and sweat shops in Third World countries run like (an by) dictatorships with the attendant "company stores" where all a worker can do is get deeper and deeper into indentured debt.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By lazza on May 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
The Space Merchants is an interesting little science fiction novel which describes the world in the 23rd century. By then global capitalism, especially the top advertisers, almost literally rule the plant. Excessive population and pollution have driven the masses underground. People are nourished by the flesh of weird genetically modified beasts. Considering this book was written fifty years ago I found the subject matter surprisingly fresh and relevant.
The story involves a top ad man who finds his task of developing a campaign for the colonisation of Venus dramatically undermined by dark forces. In this complex stew of industrial espionage are competing ad companies and the underground conservationist guerillas. The mystery moves along at a good clip although it sputters a bit towards the end.
Overall this book touches some deep issues along the lines of Aldous ('Brave New World') Huxley, and has a satiric (and weird) feel like the works of Philip K. ('Ubik') Dick. Certainly a minor classic in its own right.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By not me VINE VOICE on October 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
"The Space Merchants" is one of those science fiction novels that succeeds as social criticism and political satire even though its literary merits are slim. On the negative side, the book has flat characters, ridiculous plot twists, and not one cool scientific idea. Even worse, the story races from scene to scene, never fully imagining the world it tries to create. But in the context of the era in which it was written -- the insane McCarthyite 1950s -- "The Space Merchants" was surely a subversive bombshell. It depicts a crazy 23rd century world in the grip of Big Business and market fundamentalism: ad agencies brainwash the public, private companies own Senate seats, conservationists are hunted down like Reds, and food is laced with opium (the better to build brand loyalty). "The Space Merchants" had a lot of anger hidden beneath its irreverent humor. It must have prompted smart teenagers to think about the warped social values of capitalist America in the 1950s. Smart teenagers will still enjoy it today.
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