The Space Merchants - Frederik Pohl, C.M. Kornbluth

In a vastly overpopulated near-future world, businesses have taken the place of governments and now hold all political power. States exist merely to ensure the survival of huge transnational corporations. Advertising has become hugely aggressive and boasts some of the world's most powerful executives. Through advertising, the public is constantly deluded into thinking that all the products on the market improve the quality of life. However, the most basic elements are incredibly scarce, including water and fuel. The planet Venus has just been visited and judged fit for human settlement, despite its inhospitable surface and climate; colonists would have to endure a harsh climate for many generations until the planet could be terraformed. Mitch Courtenay is a star-class copywriter in the Fowler Schocken advertising agency and has been assigned the ad campaign that would attract colonists to Venus, but a lot more is happening than he knows about. Mitch is soon thrown into a world of danger, mystery, and intrigue, where the people in his life are never quite what they seem, and his loyalties and core beliefs will be put to the test.




Business and consumerism have replaced government and politics. The population has exploded. Problematically, food sources have vastly diminished. Panicked scientists are pushing Earthlings to maybe start considering the idea of colonizing Venus. Mitch Courtenay works as a copywriter for an advertising firm, his latest project tasking him with making Venus colonization an appealing prospect to citizens via slick adverts. 


Once the idea becomes an actual project being executed by the government, space ships are designed by Walmart Kitchen Appliance Division through Defense Dept. contracts. Mitch is chosen as a leader for the mission. Before long, Mitch begins receiving death threats, but from whom? Searching for the answers, Mitch is thrown into an unexpected journey of mystery and danger, often finding himself left with only mounting questions rather than answers. 


Having originally been published in 1953, this sci-fi classic has had plenty of time to gather quite the following. A quick search and you'll find pages of glowing reviews. Seeing that, combined with a plot that sounded fantastic and apropo to today's times, I went in with mighty high expectations! 


While certainly enjoyable, not to mention eerie with the still-relatable social commentary, I closed this book feeling it had been a middling adventure for my mind, but one that was largely forgettable. The world building didn't strike me as all that well detailed, some plot details insufficiently explained, leaving it difficult for me to fully immerse myself in this dystopian world. Also surprised to see that in this " Revised 21st Century Edition" (as the cover proclaims) the term "midget" was left in the text. 


As for comedy or action, not much was to be found in the early portions of the book. Things pick up around Chapter 7, with a mistaken identity element thrown into the storyline. There are some twists and turns near the end but this was one of those ones where it all felt a bit rushed to give everything a tidy closing.