I read this novel at least 40 years ago. It is clearly SF, some of the action is not on Earth. I don’t remember interstellar travel, only within solar system, Moon and/or Mars and/or Venus and/or asteroids. So space colonisation is there, but in fact is a minor ingredient : if those parts of the action had been on some remote corner on Earth, it would not have changed the plot much, really.

What I remember best is some "sociological" aspects. There seem to be no countries, no polities. Big companies rule the world (the worlds, rather, since there are several inhabited planets/satellites). Even law and order are maintained by private security agencies. I think I remember Brink’s being mentioned.

The main protagonist works for one such big company. He has no decision power, but has the ear of the CEO of that company, who trusts him. Of course, some people are not happy with that.

So one morning the main protagonist wakes up, probably not on Earth, as an indentured worker (translate : a slave) and is shown a contract he is supposed to have signed to pay back some huge debt he has no memory of owing. And since his expenses are higher than his salary, he’ll never pay it back. I don’t remember how he does it, but he manages to escape, without killing anyone. However he is now wanted by the authorities-that-be for contract breach and “femicide”.

At some point he gets in touch with, either the CEO he worked for, or some person really loyal to the latter. In any case, this person does not blink an eye at the charge of femicide, but asks him whether the contract that was breached really was invalid. (It is not clear where, in this hierarchy of severity, homicide would find its position.)

At his assurance that the contract was totally phoney, he obtains help, but there are still more happenings that I forgot.

In the end, the CEO dies and the main protagonist is told by a inheritance lawyer that the CEO has willed him a majority of shares of some obscure sub-company. But by some complicated mechanisms, this puts him in control of the entire big company of which he becomes the CEO.

  • Personally, I have absolutely no memory of a Giant Chicken. Nothing in the question asked there has the slightest connection with my question. However, if I asked the question it is because I don't remember the book, just a few glimpses. If the person who asked the Giant Chicken is satisfied that The Space Merchants is the answer to his question, then of course it is the same answer than to my question. But I have only the "acceptance" of the other questioner as argument, I don't see any connection besides this "acceptance", I'd have to read the entire book to see the connection. – Alfred Dec 23 '19 at 14:31
  • I would add that the person who asked the question wrote "Showed a synopsis to my mother, she agreed that it is, in all likelihood, the book she half-remembered." So in all likelihood it is the same answer. But I am not convinced. The doubt is not about my question, the answer to mine is without any doubt The Space Merchants. But not being in the head of the mother of the person who asked the other question, I can only say that in all likelihood it is the same question. – Alfred Dec 23 '19 at 14:40

Of course this is The Space Merchants by Pohl and Kornbluth:

"Please, later ... I'm wanted for femicide and CB on Earth. Here I'm a suspicious character without clearance. Also I resisted arrest, clouted a guard, and damaged Luna City property."

He looked grave. "You know, I don't like the sound of CB," he said. "I assume there was a flaw in the contract?"

"Several," I assured him.

He brightened. “Then we’ll pay off the fines on the rest of the stuff and fight the CB clear up to the Chamber of Commerce if we have to. What firm?”

  • Very precisely the quote I remembered – Alfred Dec 23 '19 at 8:31

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