Gateway (novel)

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First edition cover
AuthorFrederik Pohl
IllustratorVincent DiFate (serial)[1]
Cover artistBoris Vallejo[2]
CountryUnited States
SeriesHeechee Saga
GenreScience fiction
PublisherSt. Martin's Press
Publication date
April 1977
(serial from Nov 1976)[1]
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages313 (first ed.)
AwardsLocus Award for Best Novel (1978)
LC ClassPZ4.P748 Gat PS3566.O36[3]
Followed byBeyond the Blue Event Horizon 

Gateway is a 1977 science fiction novel by American writer Frederik Pohl. It is the opening novel in the Heechee saga, with four sequels that followed (five books overall). Gateway won the 1978 Hugo Award for Best Novel,[4] the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel,[4] the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel,[5] and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.[4] The novel was adapted into a computer game in 1992.

Publishing history[edit]

Gateway was serialized in Galaxy prior to its hardcover publication. A short concluding chapter, cut before publication, was later published in the August 1977 issue of Galaxy.[6]

Plot summary[edit]

Gateway is a space station built into a hollow asteroid constructed by the Heechee, a long-vanished alien race. Humans have had limited success understanding Heechee technology found there and elsewhere in the solar system. The Gateway Corporation administers the asteroid on behalf of the governments of the United States of America, the Soviet Union, New People's Asia, the Venusian Confederation, and the United States of Brazil.

There are nearly a thousand small, abandoned starships at Gateway. By extremely dangerous trial and error, humans learn how to operate the ships. The controls for selecting a destination have been identified, but nobody knows where a particular setting will take the ship or how long the trip will last; starvation is a danger. Attempts at reverse engineering to find out how they work have ended only in disaster, as has changing the settings in mid-flight. Most settings lead to useless or lethal places. A few, however, result in the discovery of Heechee artifacts and habitable planets, making the passengers (and the Gateway Corporation) extremely wealthy. The vessels come in three standard sizes, which can hold a maximum of one, three, or five people, filled with equipment and hopefully enough food for the trip. Some "threes" and many "fives" are armored. Each ship includes a lander to visit a planet or other object if one is found.

Despite the risks, many people on impoverished, overcrowded, starving Earth hope to go to Gateway. Robinette Stetley Broadhead—known as Robin, Rob, Robbie, or Bob, depending on circumstances and his state of mind—is a young food shale miner on Earth who wins a lottery, giving him just enough money to purchase a one-way ticket to Gateway. Once there, he is frightened of the danger and delays going on a mission as long as he can. In the meantime he becomes romantically involved with two different women, eventually settling on Gelle-Klara Moynlin, his co-enabler in fearful delaying. Eventually he starts running out of money, and although he is terrified, he goes out on three trips. The first is unsuccessful and afterwards tension rises between Bob and Klara until they have a fight that suddenly turns into a vicious beating from Bob that seems to stem from repressed homosexuality. On the second trip, he makes a discovery through unauthorized experimentation, but the bonus he is awarded is offset by the large penalty for incapacitating the ship. On his third trip, the Gateway Corporation tries something different: sending two armored five-person ships, one slightly behind the other, to the same destination, one rejected as particularly hazardous by most ship's navigation computers. Bob signs up in desperation, along with Klara, who is struggling with her own fears.

When the ships arrive, their crews find to their horror that they are in the gravitational grip of a black hole without enough power to break free. The crews devise a desperate escape plan: Move everyone into one ship and eject the other toward the black hole, thus gaining enough of a boost to escape. Working frantically to transfer unnecessary equipment to make room, Broadhead finds himself alone in the wrong ship when time runs out. He closes the hatch so that the plan can proceed. By chance, his ship is the one that breaks free, leaving the rest of the crew falling into the black hole.

Broadhead returns to Gateway alone and receives the entire bonus. He feels enormous survivor guilt for leaving his crewmates, especially Klara, and is unsure whether he intended to sacrifice himself or the others, so once back on Earth as a wealthy man he seeks therapy from an artificial intelligence Freudian therapist program which he names Sigfrid von Shrink.

The narrative alternates in time between Broadhead's experience on Gateway and his sessions with Sigfrid, converging on the traumatic moment near the black hole. Sigfrid helps him realize that, due to the gravitational time dilation of the black hole's immense gravity field, time is passing much more slowly for his former crewmates and none of them has actually died yet. Broadhead, however, concludes that this means that they will still be dying when he dies in several decades, with Klara still believing that he betrayed them to save himself.

Also embedded in the narrative are various mission reports (usually with fatalities), roster openings, technical bulletins, and other documents Broadhead might have read on Gateway, adding to the verisimilitude. The economic side of living at Gateway is presented in detail, commencing with the contract all explorers must enter into with the Gateway Corporation, and including how some awards are determined.


C. Ben Ostrander reviewed Gateway in The Space Gamer No. 12.[7] Ostrander commented that "I loved this book. I like books that don't solve big problems, but take care of the characters."[7]

TV series[edit]

In 2015, Variety announced that a Gateway TV series will be written and produced by David Eick and Josh Pate for Syfy with Eick serving as showrunner.[8] In September 2017, Skybound Entertainment will develop the TV series.[9]


  1. ^ a b Galaxy Science Fiction 37.8 publication contents at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  2. ^ Gateway title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved December 13, 2014. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  3. ^ "Gateway" (first edition). Library of COngress Catalog Record. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "1978 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved July 25, 2009.
  5. ^ "1977 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved July 25, 2009.
  6. ^ "Postscript to Gateway". Galaxy, August 1977, pp.30-33.
  7. ^ a b Ostrander, C. Ben (July–August 1977). "Books". The Space Gamer. Metagaming (12): 37.
  8. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (August 12, 2015). "Syfy Developing 'Gateway' TV Show with 'Battlestar Galactica's' David Eick". Retrieved May 26, 2016.
  9. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (September 27, 2017). "Robert Kirkman's Skybound Entertainment Options Frederik Pohl Novel 'Gateway' (EXCLUSIVE)". Retrieved September 27, 2017.

External links[edit]