The Gateway Trip

To readers of Pohl’s THE HEECHEE SAGA this addition is likely to seem anticlimactic, though enthusiastic fans may welcome these tales from the early history of human contact with the Heechee. THE GATEWAY TRIP contains one story and a multipart chronicle of the long period between humanity’s discovery of Heechee artifacts and contact with the Heechee.

The Gateway asteroid contains about a thousand apparently abandoned Heechee spaceships. Many vignettes describe the adventures of the early explorers who took preprogrammed trips in these ships, not knowing where they would be taken, for how long, or whether they would return. These adventures are ironic, amusing, and tragic by turn. One of Pohl’s themes is to contrast the misery of life before humans master Heechee technology with the material utopia afterwards. Heechee technology ends food and energy shortages, provides a mechanical means to immortality, and opens the universe to human exploration.

"The Merchants of Venus,” the one long story, is a cliff-hanger set after the colonization of Venus. Professional guide Audee Walthers makes a precarious living from tourists who wish to brave the hostile surface on the chance of striking it rich by finding a useful Heechee artifact in one of the rare unspoiled tunnels left behind eons ago. In desperate need of money for a liver transplant, Walthers thinks he has found just the right tourist at almost the last minute, but too many things go wrong.

Like much of Pohl’s fiction, this story is not notable for strong plot and character development. It and the collection as a whole are more interesting for their general ideas about the structure of future societies and for their presentation of imaginative technology.