Post by James Nicoll
Gateway (Heechee, book 1) by Frederik Pohl
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The details of Pohl’s world-building make it clear, however, that treating other people as expendables isn’t just something bad people do. It’s the basis of the setting. Anyone who does anything but look out for Number One is a chump, likely to die young. The most miserable people in Gateway are the people who insist on seeing other people as people rather than as stepping stones to success. Broadhead feels guilty about the monumental act of betrayal that capped his career, but he never uses any of the wealth that rewarded it to try to better his world.
In fact, there’s no evidence anyone in this setting can imagine a better way of doing things. The essential first step of reform, imagining it, seems to have been made impossible. It’s an unpleasant world, but all too plausible.
This is very true of the first Gateway book. Robin and S. Ya spend muxh of their time and a great deal of money attempting to improve the lot of both individuals and of the world at large in the subsequent books. Indeed it could be argued that as soon as Robin dealt with his massive guilt, he started intelligently trying to make amends.