#19: The Space Merchants (Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth)

It seems like many of the seeds of cyberpunk can be found in The Space Merchants — massive conglomerate corporations, involved in government, with their own closed-system cities, unchecked advertising and profiteering, a brutally oppressed underclass. It’s much breezier than that list makes it seem — a glib, likable and thoroughly unpleasant protagonist and a headlong rush through its 155 pages keep it pretty frothy. The notes at the back of the American Library anthology include three more chapters, originally written to bring the novel up to its contracted length and then only published when it was serialized in

Reading 1950s science fiction can be a little jarring — sometimes, just little things, like a mention of Nash-Kelvinator, long gone and tangled up in other auto companies. On societal issues, though, things seem a bit rougher. There’s some rather weird homophobic stuff in the Costa Rica segment of the book that was a bit hard to just wave off as of the times. It never really cropped up again; I just gritted my teeth and got past it and back to enjoying the book. It did spoil things for me a little, though.

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