When prospector Bob Broadhead went out to Gateway on the Heechee spacecraft, he decided he would know which was the right mission to make him his fortune. Three missions later, now famous and permanently rich, Robinette Broadhead has to face what happened to him and what he is...in a journey into himself as perilous and even more horrifying than the nightmare trip through the interstellar void that he drove himself to take!
BONUS AUDIO: In an exclusive introduction, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Robert J. Sawyer explains why Gateway is one of science fiction's all-time greatest novels.
PLEASE NOTE: Some changes were made to the original text with the permission of the author.
©1977 Frederik Pohl; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Gateway is a book I’ve read several times since I was a kid, and an old favorite. At eleven, I was more interested in the science fiction aspects (somehow, most of the sex and drug use went over my head), but with repeated readings, I’ve come to appreciate the human elements of the story a lot more.
To be fair, the setup is one of the coolest in science fiction. Humanity has discovered an ancient alien space station near Venus, called Gateway, which is filled with small starships. Nobody knows what happened to the Heechee or why they abandoned their base, but many of the ships are in working order and will travel by autopilot to other star systems and the planets orbiting them.
Too bad there's a catch. Not all of the ships still work perfectly after half a million years, and some of the destinations are lethal. A once temperate star might have supernova-d since the time of Heechee civilization. Nobody has a clue how Heechee technology works. So, the Gateway Corporation recruits "prospectors" willing to risk a fairly high chance of death to take images of different parts of the galaxy and bring back artifacts that the Corporation might study.
People volunteer for this mission because life on an overcrowded Earth has become pretty miserable for most, with quality medical care available only to the wealthy few (sound familiar?). One such volunteer is Robinette Broadhead, a former miner of oil shale (now used for growing foodstuffs -- yum), who wins the lottery.
Bob, as he’s called, is a pretty flawed character, a self-centered, sex-chasing man who’s also somewhat of a coward. But he’s easy to relate to, not really being a bad guy at heart, and his fear is understandable, given the horrible deaths that await many prospectors. His story unfolds in two parts, one of which follows his life and relationships from Earth to Gateway and beyond, and the other of which has the older and now fantastically rich Mr. Broadhead in sessions with an AI psychiatrist, trying to get to the root of a deep trauma that both threads will eventually converge on. (And it is a pretty terrible one.)
Some readers aren’t fans of the sessions between Robinette and the computer psychiatrist, Sigfrid von Shrink, but I loved their relationship and think it’s integral to the story, in a subtle way. I found it fun watching Bob try to trick Sigfrid, only to find that the machine’s programming was nearly always a step ahead of him.
This book isn’t really about the Heechee (see further entries in the series to learn more about them), but about the dirty, messy tension of human desires, fears, and guilt in a place that stands between life and death, known and unknown. Gateway’s a moving examination of the psychology of our existence, of how we, from the personal level up to the species level, neither want to place our hopes on a frightening gamble on the unknown, nor on the ugly, suffering-filled known, but sometimes must make a choice and face what comes.
Still a classic.
Superb is the only word that suits. I've been hoping for this book to appeat in audio for years now, and happily this recording does not disappoint. One of the best Science Fiction (as opposed to the usual "sci-fi" trivia) books ever, and well narrated too. Hopefully this will sell like hot cakes and encourage Audible to continue with Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and the rest of the series.
Well done Audible.
One of the best sci fi I've read so far.I was deeply moved at the end of the book. The characters are amazing, and the story focuses much more on their development than on meaningless technological details you see so much in other sci fi works.
I can recommend this to any reader, your credit will be well spent!
Great story and reading. If you like sci-fi, don't hesitate to buy Gateway. Still fresh after 30 years. Interesting premise of space exploration via trial and error with alien technology. Hope to see more of the Pohl's Heechee books and Oliver Wyman's readings.
I am brutally honest. Popular, love everything they read, reviewers are scared to go neg. and risk their ranking. It's your money!!!
I first read this over 30 years ago. At that time I was amazed by the whole thought of an ancient race leaving behind a space station with ships included. The thought that humans would risk there lives getting into a ship, that they knew not where it was going or how long it would be gone. I still think that this an interesting concept as other must have since it won the Hugo and the Nebula. This time when I read it I got caught up in the characters and the cast of Blacks, Brazilians, gays, Bi's, strong women, Russians, handicapped etc. This belongs in any collection of great science fiction. The main character is a man with weaknesses and personal problems, but anyone who has every read any FP novels know that all his novels are filled with characters who are less then heroic. People who have problems, you know, kind of like yourself. If you insist that your novels have heroic swashbuckling characters with no flaws, then you will not enjoy this or any FP novel.
Mr. Pohls examination of humanity in the form of Robin Broadhead wrapped up in a Sci Fi classic from the 70's is as home today in our computer tablet and smart phone world as it was back in 1977 when it was first released in print. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this Hugo and Nebula award winning book and it re reminded me of why I took up sci fi reading all those years ago. Gateway was one of my favorite books from my teens and now as an adult and with the help of audible and Oliver Wymans expert reading of the voice of Sigmund, Robinette and all the others gives real vision to an already excellently written story. I had forgotten the subtle emotional and psychological nuances between all of his characters. Years before sophisticated computer programs Mr. Pohls artistic telling of the story of Gateway and it's computer generated and real life flawed personalities will make you smile and is a story you will not want to put down nor soon forget. I digested each of the Heechee saga books in turn and actually parceled out bits and pieces of it as to not get done with it too quickly. You must savor this trilogy like a fine wine.
This is not the typical sci-fi I normally read. In fact, while there is some good sci-fi in there to keep me interested in the story the interaction between Ziggy and Bob have me trapped in the story. I was planning to move on to some other books I've downloaded since starting this one but now I have to finish the series. Just too dang good.
A good way to get through the work day.
Gateway wasn't the most action packed book, but somehow still kept my attention. Great story that really makes the listener think. Not another book i can compare this too which makes it very different but still a great book. The main character isn't the most likeable person but this adds to the realism of the characters and the story. Hoping the the next book has a little more action. Could end up being a great series.
This was a very good listen. Both a space adventure and a psychological drama. It would be nice to see the rest of the books in the series available as audiobooks on audible.com.
l'enfer c'est les autres
The book has what I think is the most interesting character I've ever come across in fiction, Siegfrid von Shrink (or at least that's what the main character calls him). I found myself eagerly anticipating all of their sessions and I, the listener, was never disappointed when he was present in the story.
The book is also interesting for another reason. It's a rare book where the whole purpose for the book is really stated in the last line of the book (don't worry, I'm not giving away a spoiler, but by all means make sure you listened to the last line).
I definitely don't want to give away too much, so I'll speak circumspectly, the book explores what it means to be human and tells us why we are special in the universe and all of this comes together with the last line in the book.
I enjoyed the book, but it's definitely not pure sci-fi in the classical sense, and just dances around the physics and the science except for the character of Siegfrid von Shrink. He makes the book highly listenable and worth a credit.
"Great book, shame it's not genuinely unabridged"
The book is deservedly known as a science fiction classic, but watch out for this audio version as it is heavily abridged. Although it's title 'unabridged', in fact all the side bars in the text have been removed.
"A fantastic story, not at all what I expected."
Remove the Sci-fi elements and all that come with it and this story is still great that is what makes this awesome.
There is little epic about it, no world saving or anything of the sort. No heroes or villains and certainly no angels....but no demons either. The world is fantastical and futuristic but at the same time painted in shades of grey and brown.
Having just read 'Armada' this book is so very different from anything I have read before, it has layers of realism thicker than any other sci fi I have read.
Worth a read (listen).
Also the narration is the best I have heard in a long time. Excellent.
"Good story, horrible narration"
When I listened to the sample I thought it was ok but after a couple of hours of that horrible cracked rasping voice I couldn't stand it. Now, having finished it, just thinking about it sets my teeth on edge. Not only an awful voice but the dialogue is awful too.
Despite the age it's hardly dated and still well worth reading. It is a good story, realistically conceived with interesting perspectives on mankind presented subtly without ever preaching or trying to impress.It alternates two stories both told in the first person by the protagonist, Bob. One is the story of his life as he sought to make his fortune. The other is his psychotherapy as he attempts to recover after those events. The AI psychotherapist has been described as one of science fiction's greatest character creations. I disagree. Having lived with a practising psychoanalyst for many years, I didn't find the sessions remotely realistic, nor was there a single Aha! moment or a conversation that made me stop and think about the implications of AI personality. The issues raised in Beckett's Genesis, for example, are much more thought provoking. Still it's an enjoyable story.
"Great story and expressively narrated"
I wasn't able to stop listening. For those who are interested, there's also a PC adventure game Legend published in 1992 based on this book -- a classic in itself.
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