Reviews of Space Merchants, the (1952)
Review by clong (2006-01-11)
The Space Merchants is rightly considered a science fiction classic. Mitchell Courtenay is a successful ad-man in a world run by ad-men, who finds himself discredited and on the run. He avoids assassination attempts and suffers the unpleasant experience of learning how the "other" half (i.e., consumers) live. The book is a pretty blunt indictment of American consumerism, envisioning a dystopian society driven by corporations that use advertising to create consumer needs (for such useful things as "Kiddiebutt" cigarettes for kids).
When I first read it, I found it to be a reasonably entertaining yarn, but somewhat dated. Looking back, I wonder whether I wasn't a bit naive in this assessment--in a society where the government helps companies make record profits at the expense of taxpayers and the environment, and those companies and their executives turn around and give massive contributions back to the politicians who run the government, Pohl and Kornbluth's vision of "the Senator from Du Pont" doesn't really seem so far fetched.