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Mr. S. Reviews “The Space Merchants” by Pohl and Kornbluth

Daniel Schwabauer

Early in his career, sci-fi legend Fredrick Pohl teamed with C.M. Kornbluth to write a science fiction adventure about the future of the advertising industry. Kornbluth died in his twenties, too young to fulfill the promise he displays in this short but delightful book from the golden age of science fiction.

The premise: advertising executives run the world.

The plot: Mitch Courtney, a copywriter for one of the world’s most powerful advertising firms, is fighting his way up the corporate ladder when he runs head-first into a conspiracy of world-wide proportions.

What makes it interesting: The thing that lifts The Space Merchants above the plentiful fluff of the genre penned in the 50s and 60s is its prophetic warning about unbridled materialism and its influence on human psychology. While it isn’t a treatise on what’s wrong with American consumerism, I found the book slightly unnerving. The authors give us an inside look at a future that has become all too real. They lift the curtain on marketing techniques void of conscience—techniques that I fear are being used on us every day by companies not all that different from the ones described in the book.

While I doubt that the novel is destined for literary immortality, it it definitely worth reading….if only to give you a safe, entertaining and disquieting look at the world of “harmless” commercials.

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