The Alexandrian

The Gateway Trip - Frederik PohlThe Gateway Trip is purportedly a collection of short stories subtitled Tales and Vignettes of the Heechee.

But that’s pretty much bullshit.

This book would be more accurately titled A Child’s History of Gateway. Only the last eight pages deal directly with the Heechee to any meaningful degree, while most of the rest of the book is largely a recapitulation of the Future History which is already thoroughly explained in the other Gateway books. This blatant regurgitation of exposition is occasionally studded with short segues describing the missions of various Gateway prospectors, but these are passionless, short (averaging perhaps 5 paragraphs), and read like the informational placards at a rather bland museum.

(I would have dearly loved to have either: (a) A true collection of stories focusing entirely on the Heechee; or (b) a collection of short stories focusing on various Gateway-based prospectors. Sadly this book is neither. It’s a completely wasted opportunity.)

The only exception to this pointless pablum is “The Merchants of Venus”, a novella originally published in 1972 which serves as a prequel of sorts for Gateway. I found “The Merchants of Venus” to be a very entertaining yarn of Campbellian science fiction. The occasional tinge of┬ásexism by way of golden age SF is cringe-worthy, but beyond that the three main characters are well-drawn; the milieu is evocative; and the hard science fiction is used dramatically (rather than self-indulgently).

In short, if you can find a copy for a couple of bucks, The Gateway Trip is worth it just to have a copy of “The Merchants of Venus” (particularly if you enjoyed Gateway and want to find the only other taste of the universe that’s worth paying any attention to). But it’s probably best if you just skip the rest of it.

GRADE: D

(Merchants of Venus gets a B-.)

Frederik Pohl
Published: 1991
Publisher: Del Rey
Cover Price: $6.99
ISBN: 0345375440
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