Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Merchants of Venus by Fredrik Pohl - short story review

This is a longer story (32,000 words) about a down-on-his-luck prospecting guide who lands very rich clients just when he really needs them.

The story is about Audee Walthers a man who once lived on Earth but now makes his home on Venus.  Trouble is Walthers is dying and needs a large influx of money for a liver transplant.  He is lucky enough to meet and contract with a rich couple on an adventure holiday from Earth.  The couple wants to go on a prospecting tour but, on Venus, it's not mineral wealth that people are prospecting for - it's archeology.  Venus was once populated by a race dubbed the Heechee, who once lived in under-ground tunnels, and who mysteriously left the planet.  Finding unexplored tunnels and any artifacts can make a person instantly wealthy.

There are numerous lies and double-crosses in the story.  This is what I look for in a SF story; I want to see real people struggling to make a living doing the kinds of things that people do right here on earth; like trying to out-fox each other for money.  I don't need FTL travel and I don't need aliens mucking up the story to make it work for me but I do love the hardware.  Give me space and a bucket-of-bolts space ship and I'm hooked.

I came to the story via a wonderful on-line service provided by Best Science Fiction Stories, conveniently found at: 

If you decide to subscribe you'll get near-daily updates from them.  The emails themselves are wonderful; not only do they tell you a bit about the story and where to read it but they will also give you a bit of background on the author and the story itself, like if the story is part of a much larger series of novels, if it won any awards and if it was collected in book form along the way.  I highly recommend the service.

You can find an example of the email that brought me to this story HERE

You can find the story HERE

 Information on the Author can be found HERE

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