Page Turner: Gateway

I noticed recently that despite my claims of loving SciFi, I haven’t read any in a while outside of a Doctor Who tie-in novel. So I had a look in my little library for an SF Masterworks book I haven’t read yet. At this point, I have admitted to myself that buying/collecting books is a different hobby from reading books. Anyway, I found my copy of a classic in the genre that came highly recommended to me, Gateway.

Gateway is a Space Oprea novel written by the late award-winning author Frederik Pohl. In fact, he won three for Gateway alone. Set during a time where Earth resources are depleted, our protagonist Robinette Broadhead barely got by working in the food mines. One day, he catches a break with a substantial lottery win. He uses his newfound fortune to take the ultimate risk, a one-way ticket to Gateway.

Gateway is a hollowed-out asteroid turned base by a long lost alien race known only as Heechee. They created technology that allowed them to travel vast distances much faster than any other means humans have available. However, it is a Russian roulette since these are more or less random destinations. You might get lucky and find a resourceful planet, securing you for life or get sent straight into an event horizon.

Well, if that is the risk, why take it? Simple, the corporation that now owns and operates this technology pay folk to gamble their lives. If you come back alive, you get some cash, find something good and you will never need to worry about money again. 

With this being a Space Opera, the focus of the story is on Broadhead and his relationship with his fellow prospectors as they are called, folk who roll the dice on these expeditions. Broadhead has not had an easy life, Gateway is hardly a utopia either but he now has a chance which is more than most have. Needless to say, he isn’t the only one who fell on hard times, you don’t risk it all if you have an easy life after all.

The story itself takes place at two different periods. One during Broadhead’s stay on Gateway, the other after the fact during his therapy sessions. Thanks to that, we really get a good look into his mindset and past. 

Broadhead isn’t exactly a shining beacon of humanity, he does some questionable things during the narrative. He is a self-confessed coward at times, taking the easy way out whenever he can. He has lost a lot and feels rather bitter about it and is often ruled by emotion above all. However, I do find myself feeling bad for him as he is a survivor after all.

Gateway is filled with technobabble, something I personally like but I know it can put some people off. It is very much a classic Space Opera with a few twists, such as the robot therapist who might be my favourite character, even though it is not really a person at all. The rest of the cast are all memorable and charismatic in their own ways. 

Despite being published back in 1977, the novel still feels very fresh and modern, not dated at all. Well, maybe a tad but not enough to detract from the overall story.

It’s a dramatic and gripping read. You get hints early on to the fates of some of the characters but it still finds a way to make an impact. I can see why it is considered a masterwork of SciFi, I loved it. Thankfully for me, there are a few other books set in this universe so I need to track those down. If they are half as good as Gateway, I am sure I am going to love them.

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