Author: Fred Pohl
Narrator: Oliver Wyman
One of my goals with this blog is to include a mix of both old and new. I first read Gateway many years ago, long before the series was completed, probably in the early 1980s. At that time the “hard SF” genre was in its prime, and very different from today. Not as many writers, but the fan base was exploding, as shown by convention attendance.
Pohl rode that wave along with authors like Larry Niven, David Brin, Greg Bear, John Varley, William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, C.J. Cherryh, Jerry Pournelle and many others. Plus you still had the grand masters, Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, kicking out books like clockwork. It was a great time to be a fan — as if the future were just around the corner.
Gateway, which won the 1978 Hugo award for best novel, tells the story of intredpid explorers who pay a company for access to an asteroid found in orbit around the sun, which is dubbed Gateway. On board the asteroid are ships abandoned thousands of years ago by an unknown race. Who left them? Why did they leave? Did they visit Earth? No clues are found.
But they do figure out how to operate the ships. Barely. It’s pot luck — you turn them on and they go someplace. Sometimes that place yields fabulous riches, like a new technology that can be marketed to Earth’s billions. But sometimes — quite often, actually — the ships don’t come back at all.
It may just be my association with that time in my life, but during this re-read Gateway reminded me a lot of other classics that I read from the ’70s and ’80s. Larry Niven’s Ringworld. Arthur Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. Niven and Pournelle’s Mote in God’s Eye. Heck, most of Philip K. Dick’s catalog. Haldeman’s Forever War. These were the pioneering works of the second generation of hard SF, pushing back the boundaries set by the grand masters. All the basic ideas were out there — now these books were showing us how those ideas could be iterated upon to create really exciting and engaging storytelling.
The Gateway (also called “Heechee” for reasons it would be a spoiler to explain) series is currently being adapted to television, where I think it would be very well suited. But it’s SciFi Channel and those have really been hit and miss, in my opinion. We’ll see.
For this re-read of the series I decided to try an audiobook, and I was not disappointed. Oliver Wyman really brings the characters to life, especially Albert. Wyman also narrated Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International, which I posted a review of today as well. He does a great job distinguishing his voices to make it easy to tell who’s speaking during a dialog. Not all narrators are good at that.
Just for fun, let’s see the old Boris Valejo cover, which I found in the Wikipedia. This is what my old paperback version had on the cover. Isn’t that awesome?