Frederik Pohl - Gateway


Gateway (1977) is a book by Fredric Pohl, of course. But it's also a hollow asteroid or a comet rotating close to the Sun full of goodies. The hollow asteroid and goodies originate from a strange civilization, the Heechee, which has seemingly left for good or gone extinct, leaving all kinds of objects behind. Most of them are unknown as to their use and functionality. Not all, as the asteroid contains at least thousand spaceships. Humankind has learned how to program a destination, although they don't know what the destination is. Sometimes it goes well, and the would-be kamikaze pilot returns with more unknown Heechee goodies, turning him or her rich, but often they return empty handed - or dead - or not at all.

Rob or Robinette Broadhead is one of the lucky guys, although we only learn at the end how he made his vast fortune. It didn't do him well because he's visiting a robot psychiatrist to discuss his problems with.
The story of his visits alternates with the story of him arriving at Gateway, his troublesome stay, his first failures and at last the reason of his riches and his personal problems.

His tribulations leading to his riches have to do with a well known bizarre phenomenon in the universe, and Pohl uses this cleverly. But although the book was highly acclaimed in the seventies with numerous prizes, the story feels a bit dated, and worse, the discussion with his mech shrink may have been groovy for people back then, but not for me now. And then to realize that I'm a kid of the very early sixties.

Gateway is a classic, and it gave rise to a whole lot of sequels, all very uninteresting. Despite the dated feel, Pohl keeps you guessing and eagerly waiting for more action and eventually an answer to that all important question: how did Broadhead get filthy rich? What did he find? The answer is different from what you think, so read this classic - as a classic. Who cares they smoke in a spacecraft the size of a garbage can? Who cares the Soviet Union still exists in this future? Why shouldn't you read the Iliad because Homer hadn't heard about automated war drones?

Exactly.