Boris Smus

interaction engineering

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Humanity discovers an advanced civilization, which has become extinct, but has left a mysterious Gateway in our solar system. Gateway is a small world which houses many ships capable of taking adventurers on missions to undisclosed locations. The controls are cryptic, but slowly residents of gateways gain a better understanding of how they work. Gateway is controlled by a conspicuously evil trans-national corporation, which pays prospectors to take dangerous trips on these ships with the in hopes of discovery. They pay out lucrative bonuses.

The protagonist, an unsympathetic, and cowardly Robinette (aka Bob), comes to gateway to try to strike it rich. He struggles with his own fears of going on missions, and falls in love with Klara. Their dysfunctional relationship, his troubled childhood, and pathological fear is woven deeply into the structure of the book. Chapters alternate between Bob's memories on Gateway and Bob the rich ex-prospector getting therapy sessions from a sentient Robo-psychoanalyst on Earth. Bob's last mission ends in disaster, as he is separated from his beloved as their ships try to escape from a black hole. Bob returns the sole survivor, gets an inordinate amount of money from the corporation, but remains forever unhappy, missing Klara and suffering from immense guilt.

Overall I liked the book. It was well written and captivating, reminding in some ways of Robert Heinlein, but maybe a bit more dystopian. There were many familiar tropes such as a very inter-ratial cast with exotic combinations of first and last names, like Dane Metchnikov. Bob's adventures with hot space babes are also I think a hallmark of this style of science fiction. I also enjoyed Pohl's excerpts of Gateway public announcements, mission reports and classifieds littered throughout the book.