Gateway – Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl was an American Sci-Fi writer with an impressive volume of work with pretty much very award possible being garnered.  He passed away last month at the age of 93.

This book is the first of the Heechee series of which there are 6.   A future in which man indentures themselves to travel to space stations that have been discovered existing in large meteors for a chance to strike it big in traveling out in on of the ships still docked to the station.  Traveling out is a huge gamble.  No one really knows how to control them or where they’re going or even if their per-programmed destination even still exists.  The destination may be an untapped resource of exotic materials, knowledge and technology.  If the ship returns and if the destination had something worthwhile, then the “gaters” return heroes and wealthy and with more than enough money to leave the station, the problem is that not every ship returns.

The story follows Robinette “Robin” Stetley Broadhead who wins the lottery which earns him enough money to get onto Gateway, but, getting there and getting off are two different things.  To get off you have to travel out and earn enough to leave; however, he quickly looses nerve and instead puts it off as long as possible.  He eventually runs out of money, but, the first trip out results in nothing and the second nets him nothing.  The third is an experiment sending two ships to the same destination.  The end up in the gravitational pull of a black hole.  In a desperate attempt to escape everyone empties out one of the ships and tries to escape in that ship; however, Robin sacrifices himself in the second ship.  Things don’t go as planned and instead Robin is thrown free of the black hole and is the sole survivor and receives the bonus intended for all of those that were sent on the mission making him very wealthy but suffering from survivor guilt.

The entire story is essentially told in his “therapy” sessions with his artificial intelligence analyst which he dubs “Sigfrid von Shrink”.

I’ll admit, this was not my first story of this series I read, instead I read Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and was instantly hooked.  The stories are less about the technology than they are about how people would react when faced with impossible situations and the human spirit to survive in the face their own mortality.

If you enjoy this, read:

  • Beyond the Blue Event Horizon
  • Heechee Rendezvous
  • The Annals of the Heechee
  • The Gateway Trip: Tales and Vignettes of the Heechee
  • The Boy Who Would Live Forever: A Novel of Gateway
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