Friday, August 30, 2013


By Frederik Pohl

Bob Broadhead grew up in the food mines, in a world starved for resources. His was a brutal, dead-end existence, so when he won a small fortune in the lottery, he bought a one-way ticket to Gateway.
Gateway was a base established by the Heechee, now long abandoned and recently discovered by humans. Almost nothing is known about the vanished Heechee, except that they had a penchant for building space bases and leaving their ships at the bases, destinations already set and ready to launch. Humans do not understand the technology that drives the ships, nor have they figured out how the settings work. But unable to resist the opportunity, brave souls set forth on these ships, with their pre-programmed destinations and returns, hoping to find treasure, namely Heechee artifacts and technology and also hoping to come back alive and well. But climbing into a space ship without knowing where it will end up and when it will return is, at the very least, a risky business. Lots of trips lead nowhere and lots lead to death, something Bob failed to grasp before he came to Gateway.
His first flight out leads to nothing, as does the second. But the third flight hits paydirt, but out of the ten people who went, he is the only survivor. And although he is now set for life, wealthy beyond his wildest expectations, the guilt and sorrow he feels has blighted his life and he wrestles everyday with depression and sadness.

This was an OK story. It is told in a series of flashbacks, as the now-wealthy main character tries to deal with his guilt and feelings of loss. The character's psychological state is an important (and, to me, boring) part of the story. We get to follow the young man as he learns the truth about the Gateway missions and as he struggles to face his fears and leap off into the unknown and possible death or possible success. Gateway thrives on people's willingness to risk it all for a chance to become wealthy, or if not wealthy, then at least able to afford the finer things in life like food, water, clean air and a better life for their kids.
I liked the parts about Gateway and its people. The parts about Bob's struggles with his survivor guilt just didn't appeal to me at all.

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