Reviews of Gateway (1977)
Review by kadambi (2009-12-21)
Gateway alternates between ordinary and the sublime. On the one hand, you find the book narrating space and space travel in fantastical terms. Yet you find space adventures being referred to in bland terms by the characters in the book. As an avid Science Fiction reader, I found the latter to be a bit off-putting. The excessive mystery associated with Heechee race is just badly played by the author.
The best part of the book is the gradual tension being built leading to a spectacular climax. The worst part is the conversations between von Shrink and the protagonist.
Most of the characters in the book are bland at best. If you are looking for nice character development, this is not the book for you. Pick this book if you want a nice fast read. You won't be disappointed with the ending.
(This review refers to the 1977 version titled “Gateway”)
Review by clong (2005-01-11)
This is one of Pohl's best books. The concept for FTL space travel (i.e., we find a bunch of old alien ships that still work, but we have no idea how or where they are headed when the head out from our solar system) is original, and it opens up immense possibilities for storytelling. I haven't yet read any of the later Heechee books, which have gotten generally mixed reviews.
The future society envisioned in this book is one where all but the very wealthy live short miserable frightening lives. The lucky ones get to take their chances on space travel, which is quite literally like playing a high stakes lottery, with huge payouts for the lucky, and ugly unpleasant deaths for everyone else.
The narrative form is quite effective, alternating flashbacks (of the protagonist Robinette Broadhead's adventures in space), with his present day therapy sessions with "Sigfrid von Shrink," a computerized psychotherapist. The two story lines ultimately converge on the outcome of his third space prospecting mission, a mission that left him rich, famous, and profoundly depressed.
Broadhead is certainly a flawed protagonist. By the end of the book we have a pretty good understanding of how he got to be the way his is, but I for one was not able to find much sympathy for him.
Review by sqbr (2003-07-05)
A dark, dry, fairly good book, in the "The Universe is big and scary and wierd and we humans but specks of sand" vein. The series goes downhill from here, becoming all happy and vacuous.