February Books 11) The Space Merchants

11) The Space Merchants, by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth

Classic sf, published in 1952, that had somehow passed me by – I thought I remembered a scene where advertising executives were reassuring young politicians that is is just about possible to make a living as a senator, but it’s not in this book, so I guess I must have read the sequel written by Pohl on his own decades afterwards.

The satirical future setting, in which corporate interests have taken over the world, is a little heavy-handed (“You know the old saying. Power ennobles. Absolute power ennobles absolutely.”) but the basic story of the narrator’s redemption holds pretty well. I thought I picked up a couple of nods in the direction of both Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

I don’t think you could really recommend this as a “gateway” sf novel but I can see why it is still remembered.

One thought on “February Books 11) The Space Merchants

  1. To be honest, I don’t think it is out of step with the attitudes of the era. Blanket disapproval of non-medical drug use is really a 20th century phenomenon. Obviously there was the known problem of physical addiction with opiates, but Britain had after all fought two wars to maintain the opium trade, so even there attitudes were probably ambivalent. Also, cocaine was a new drug whose medical use was only just being explored – Freud actually experimented with it as a treatment for morphine addiction, as I recall. Since Doyle was himself a doctor, it may be that he just followed the continuing research on side effects and so on, in which case Watson is just reflecting the contemporary medical consensus as it changes?

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