The Space Merchants

By Frederik Pohl

Rating: 3 stars

Venus is being opened up for colonisation, and Fowler Schocken Associates wants to be the first, and only, advertising agency there. In this grimly plausible future that Pohl and Kornbluth have established, advertising is the be all and end all of life with the majority working in labyrinthine contracts they have no hope of breaking out of in effective slavery for life. Democracy is a parody of itself, with senators representing companies, not people and those companies are in hock to the advertising agencies. The few people still concerned about protecting the planet are dismissed as subversive “consies” (conservationists) and hunted down.

I picked this up purely because I knew the name and respect both Pohl and Kornbluth (if you’re not familiar with it, Pohl’s blog is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in SF fandom and history). I don’t like dystopias in general, although I can appreciate a well thought out one. From my limited experience, this is a good one, although I still probably wouldn’t have picked it up had I known its genre before starting it.

For a book written in 1952, it’s extremely prescient. We’re not there yet, but the future of The Space Merchants doesn’t look as implausible as it should.

Book details

Publisher: Penguin
Year of publication: 1952

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