The Space Merchants: A classic science fiction satire

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth
It is pretty obvious that the debasement of the human mind caused by a constant flow of fraudulent advertising is no trivial thing. There is more than one way to conquer a country. ~Raymond Chandler
I read The Space Merchants, a classic science fiction satire about advertising and consumerism run rampant in a future world, before my sister got me to watch the popular cable TV show Mad Men, which was a shame in a way, since the show set in the 1950’s-60’s era of advertising run amok has a lot in common with the world predicted by Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth.

As Pohl actually worked in the advertising business for several years while researching and working on the novel (Kornbluth would collaborate with him later in its development), one could probably say that the real world advertising executives of the “Mad Men” era would seem... Read More

Big Planet: Disappointing compared to later Vance works

Big Planet by Jack Vance

Big Planet is an early work by Jack Vance, and like much of Vance’s early output is a little uneven in quality. The plot is fairly straightforward. Centuries before the events of the story take place, a huge planet is discovered in a neighboring solar system. Despite its size (around 25,000 miles according to a later novel set in the same setting) the planet is of low density, with earthlike gravity and atmosphere, but lacking in metals, making ownership of any metal object valuable.

The planet has for many years been viewed as a place for outcasts and odd groups and individuals to go if they wished to escape the rigid constraints of the stellar areas under the direct rule of Earth. While this has worked out for the many groups and cults who emigrated to Big Planet, their descendants in many cases are trapped in various pockets of anarchy and slavery that exist on the ungoverned... Read More