A Review of The Space Merchants
Posted by Scott Holstad on July 11, 2012
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this cynical and satirical sci fi novel. It’s about Mitchell Courtenay, a high ranking ad exec in a futuristic American society dominated by advertising. Indeed, it’s virtually un-patriotic to not adhere to advertising’s role in society. Mitch is given the assignment of leading his firm’s intention of colonizing Venus, even though it’s not remotely habitable, by making American suckers go there based on his expertise in advertising. The book starts taking some bizarre twists at that stage, leading to his being essentially kidnapped and put to work as a “crumb,” a common consumer, his escape, his workings with the Consies, or conservations, a Greenpeace-like group which attempts to overcome America’s fixation with rampant consumerism and its negative impact on the world, and more.
This book was written 60 years ago, but it was seriously ahead of its time. To quote another Goodreads member, Nancy Oakes wrote:
“Awesome book! Hard to believe this was written like 50+ years ago, because it is so incredibly relevant to our modern times. For example: it takes a look at the dangers of imperialistic corporations & greed, the plight of workers and the ungodly conditions under which some of them have to work, the clear and unmistakeable division of class in society, the total lack of concern for the environment and the treatment of those who care about it and want change.”
This book is frighteningly applicable to our current times. Pohl (the book was co-written with CM Kornbluth) was a true visionary. The satire is witty and funny. One scene that had me laughing was Mitch’s dissing of Moby Dick due to its lack of advertising. LOL! My only complaint, and the reason I’m only giving it four out of five stars, is that the scene transitions are often lacking. You’re in a scene and then, boom, something happens in the course of a sentence to radically change the plot and you’re left picking up the pieces, trying to figure out what just happened. This occurs several times in the book and I found it very distracting. Nonetheless, it was a good, quick read and I heartily recommend this book.