Gateway by Frederik Pohl


Science Fiction

Gateway (Heechee Saga) GatewayFrederik Pohl; Del Rey 2004WorldCat

Bob Broadhead was lucky when he won the lottery. He was able to escape the food mines in Wyoming. He decided to buy a trip to Gateway and become a prospector.

Gateway is a space station left behind millions of years ago by a race now called the Heechee. Humans who can afford it to go to Gateway to make their fortune. On Gateway there are Heechee spaceships. Humans can make the ships work. But they can’t understand exactly how they work. A prospector can climb into a spaceship and take off to a predetermined location, then return to Gateway. If the prospector is lucky, he or she will find Heechee artifacts that humans can adapt and use. That’s one way to get rich. But sometimes the ships arrive at a destination and find nothing. Sometimes the ships return and the crew is dead. Sometimes the ships don’t return. Only about five percent of the prospectors who go to Gateway with dreams actually become wealthy.

A multinational corporation owns and runs Gateway. All pilots who take out Heechee ships are employees/partial owners of the Corporation. If someone runs out of money while there and doesn’t take a ship out, that person can be ejected from Gateway. If there’s not a spaceship returning to Earth, Venus, or Mars, when that happens, that person is in deep trouble because ejection can still happen. It’s a good incentive to climb into a Heechee ship instead.

Gateway is Bob’s story. The book uses an “every other chapter” theme – one chapter in the present, one in his past as he relives it, then back to the present, then back to the past, etc. We learn as much as is known about the Heechee and their machinery. We become part of the men and women on Gateway who know death is just a ship skin away. But so is untold wealth. There is the science that is learned from the trips of the different stars and planets and galaxies and clusters and black holes and pathways through the stars and…

Frederik Pohl created a wonderful novel in Gateway. I was caught up immediately and didn’t want to put it down (I had to, of course, but picked it up again as soon as I could.) It’s traditional space opera with good characters and situations made believable. The interactions and thoughts are real to the reader and fit the characters.

Gateway is told in first person narrative so the reader knows what Bob is thinking and observing in all the situations. The reader knows immediately that Bob has returned from Gateway and is one of the wealthy prospectors. The riveting story is in how Bob gets there.

Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations

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