Before I began writing the review I searched for images of Gateway. This was the first one in the results:
I really have no clue about the relevance. When I think about a gateway I think about something like this:
or something like the following which resonates better with any serious reader:
If you have even passing interest in science fiction you have most definitely heard about this novel. This one is a classic of genre with a lot of awards to prove it. Imagine somebody found a habitable asteroid which had served as a parking lot for a bunch of alien spaceships. There is no sign of the owners who supposedly disappeared around one million years ago, but the ships are still functional. The humanity has no clue how they work, or even which type of fuel they use - the ships are a classical example of a black box. Nonetheless if you poke into navigation controls you might stumble upon a good course and you can actually go there.
Unfortunately a million years is a very long time, even by the cosmic scale. You might end up too close to a new star, a red dwarf, or even black hole - good luck getting out of there. So if your luck holds your remains will be delivered back by reliable alien flying engineering marvels. If you are especially extraordinary lucky though you might stumble upon alien artifacts and sell them for a real nice chunk of money. The future depicted in the book is nice Capitalistic dystopia where people sell their own body parts to support their families, so having money is important enough for people to play Russian roulette with exploring the unknown.
Robinette (Rob) Broadhead made it big. He also has lots of issues. I mean look at his full first name; this is probably where it all started. He also has some kind of PTSD from his last expedition. So the book consists of two alternative plotlines: one is about Rob getting therapy sessions from a robot psychiatrist and another one is about his stay on the Gateway (that parking lot I mentioned above).
I have never been so torn about whether I want to continue reading the series. On one hand the Gateway part can be qualified as great space opera; I was always fascinated with the stories about the exploration of the unknown and human reaction of coming to the contact with that unknown.
On the other hand Rob Broadhead as a character is fairly repulsive and the therapy parts that obviously revolve around his emotions and mental problems are boring. How bad is Rob as a character? Let us just say when it comes to whining he can give Thomas Covenant a good run for his money, but the latter would still beat the crap out of everybody when it comes to whining. At least the former is not a rapist. He did knock out his girlfriend tooth after she hit him in a shoulder though.
Please do not get me wrong. I completely understand why this book received so many literary awards and if I had been a member of one of the award committee I would have given one unconditionally. It does not diminish the fact that therapy parts are boring - but necessary for the book.
If I am still not sure about whether to proceed with reading the series, the rating is easy: 3 stars with some space opera parts climbing as high as perfect 5.