Ask an average reader what his or her favorite Science Fiction novel is. You might get Dune as an answer. Fahrenheit 451. Stranger in a Strange Land. You might even hear things like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe or Splinter in the Mind's Eye. A more discerning SF reader may bring up Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, Edgar Pangborn.
It would be tough to pinpoint me with the question, just as it would be hard for me to list one horror novel as my very favorite. The Ceremonies? Son of the Endless Night? Incubus?The Shining?
The Science Fiction books that immediately come to mind for me are Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination. Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. Philip Wylie's The Disappearance. Edgar Pangborn's A Mirror For Observers. Heinlein's Farmer in the Sky.
And there's one other that looms highly at the forefront of my heart as a very, very favorite book of Science Fiction. Of course it's Frederik Pohl's Gateway.
Born in 1919, the man seems to have been brought to this Earth to create superlative Science Fiction. Pohl never got the universal acclaim of Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, but his work is among the finest that the genre has ever seen.
Frederik Pohl had a penchant for writing searing satirical fiction, coupled with rational ideas and solid characterizations. He was not only a writer, but one of the most important editors in the history of the genre. People rightly point to John W. Campbell as the most influential editor in SF history, but Pohl is directly behind Campbell, but he brought more humanity and wit to the field.
Pohl wrote outrageously good stories and novels in the 50's and 60's, some of the best of which was in collaboration with C.M. Kornbluth. He was an important figure in the field, but things broke wide open in 1976 with his novel, Man Plus. Man Plus dealt with a man being biologically altered to live on the planet Mars. It was Hugo nominee and a Nebula winner. And this was back at a time when such things actually meant something.
The very next year, in 1977, Frederik Pohl unleashed Gateway into the world. He announced that it was the best thing he had ever written. People seemed to agree. Gateway won best novel of the year in the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and John W. Campbell Awards.
Gateway presented frank sex and modern satire in ways that were new to the SF genre. Of course aficionados like myself had seen mature, barrier-busting work from writers like Philip Josť Farmer, Robert A. Heinlein, Norman Spinrad, and others. But Pohl employed the elements of wit, drug use, and space adventure in a new way, with writing techniques that were unseen prior to its publication.
Gateway was and is Pohl's masterpiece, and one that he will forever be associated with. The novel was a huge success and it spawned several sequels and related works. It certainly remains one of my top favorite books in or out of the Science Fiction genre.
I have not read Gateway in almost forty years. I'm reaching an age where I want to re-experience favorite books. To see them again as the same person, but also not the same person. I've been doing so a lot in the past few years, but for some reason I had given Gateway a lot of thought. At least until last night, when I dreamed of Bob Broadhead and his Quixotic quests courtesy of the Heechee race.
You should consider reading, or rereading Gateway as well. Some I know in the Horror field don't seem to care much for Science Fiction, but I feel that they are doing themselves a serious disservice. Especially in the case of Gateway. It has about as much to do with Lucas and Roddenberry stuff as Peter Straub does with Goosebumps.
Now to start saving my Nickles so I can afford a copy of the Easton Press edition of Gateway.