Sunday, March 1, 2009

Gladiator at Law by Frederik Pohl

Read in a serial form from old Galaxy magazines.
I was looking forward to reading this story, as I really like Space Merchants by the same authors. Alas, I had to be disappointed.
The setup as such is interesting and promising. The story happens in a future which is ruled mainly by giant corporations. The most important job positions are mainly hereditary. And the best bonus for working in a big corporation is the GML Home, a bubble home which only go to those with jobs. Those who aren’t employed must live in ordinary houses in “Belly Rave“, and that is considered as a fate almost worse than death. For those not working, there are “bread and circuses”. Basic food is free, and so are “Field days” which are bloody gladiator style games for the masses. Pity that the story itself isn’t very interesting. The main emphasis is how get controlling stock in GML company, the company which makes the bubble houses. One of the founders of the company was displaced, and his stock was hidden from his children. Now his son and daughter try to get their hands on that that stock, and get controlling amount of it. A huge amount of the story is spend in discussing stock, and ways of get it, manipulate it and so on. At least it feels like it. The best part of the story is the first third, where the world is described, but the second, and especially the third part were at places extremely boring. There are also some issues in characterization and world building I find a bit problematic. In middle part one of the main characters is sacked from the work and forced to live in Skid Rove with his family. About first thing his wife does is to kick their teenage daughter on the streets to earn some money with a threat of selling her for prostitution. Mind you, this is in a world where food is free, and housing in principle is free. Also the wonderfulness of the GML homes compared to regular housing seemed pretty forced and hard to understand. As a whole the story was pretty disappointing.

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