Today we continue our quest to find the greatest science fiction novel of all time. The path to greatness can be found across all points of the compass. There is no single way to get there. The worth of a novel is found in the whole of the tale rather than in its individual parts.
Nearly every novel ever written has detractors as well as proponents. Some may love a novel for its deep ideas and insight. Others may enjoy it for its exploration of character. Those same qualities in a story that some may tout as amazing, others may label as faults.
Attempting to step back from personal opinion in our evaluation, we will continue to utilize the awards of various groups as the foundation for judgment. While award selection is subjective, a broad sampling of awards can provide a spectrum that points towards greatness. Commercial success will also be considered for each novel.
As we continue to put together the list of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, we will refrain from ranking the entries in any particular order. They are each unique and hold their own qualities.
Our first entry on the list was Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke. It was a novel of ideas and hard science, reminiscent of the Golden Age of science fiction. The latest entry on our list was published only a handful of years later, but is more representational of the New Wave.
GATEWAY BY FREDERIK POHL
Author: Frederik Pohl
First Year Published: 1977
John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel 1978
Nebula Award for Best Novel 1977
Hugo Award for Best Novel 1978
Locus Award for Best Novel 1978
Gateway was first published as a serialization in the pages of Galaxy magazine. It is only one of two novels to ever hit the grand slam of awards by winning the Hugo, the Nebula, the Locus, and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.
Frederik Pohl is an icon in the science fiction industry, having been declared a SFWA Grand Master as well as having been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He started as an energetic fan and later wore nearly every hat in the industry. Frederik was an editor, agent, fan, and author. He helped nurture and grow science fiction into the behemoth it has become today.
Many consider Gateway to be his finest work. Many name it one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time.
The novel explores character on a grand scale, experimenting with the narrative in unique ways. The main character Robinette Stetley Broadhead relates the events of the story through his sessions with a robot psychologist and through flashbacks to his time on Gateway. In the process, the reader discovers all of Robin’s inner secrets.
Gateway is a space station built inside an asteroid by a lost race of aliens known as the Heechee. Humans use the alien technology to explore space and to reach beyond their own limitations. The novel explores the risks and dangers humans are willing to take in the name of progress and exploration.
Pohl’s wonderful humor creeps to the surface throughout the story. He seems to be toying with a juxtaposition of space exploration and the exploration of self.
If you have never read Gateway, it is time to add it to your list. It represents science fiction in its pure form with experimentation in writing and ideas.
This weekend in Lawrence, Kansas at the 2014 Campbell Conference (June 13-15) much of the programming will be dedicated to “Appreciating Frederik Pohl”. I urge you to attend if you are able. The personal stories and insights into the great Frederik Pohl will be coming from many of the people who were closest to him.
As a fan, I will always be grateful to Frederik for his dedication in helping build the foundation of science fiction. His contributions will continue to live on.