Destination: Universe

by A. E. van Vogt
Reviewed date: 2004 Dec 11
160 pages
cover art

Everybody should read a little van Vogt. This may be the best collection of short stories I have read in the last two years.

Of course, it helps that I am in love with the physical book itself. I read it many years ago when I was a small child, and had forgotten about it until recently. After his most recent trip to Indonesia, my father brought back this book, which he had left in a box in Indonesia when we moved away almost ten years ago. The book is well worn, pages tattered with use and reddened with age. It smells deliciously old; not musty or sharp, but woody, sweet and dusty. Well-formed cursive writing on the inside covers states that the book was "given to Verle Duerden the Christmas of 1964 from Parma Duerden his sister. Lots of love."

Who is Verle Duerden, to whom the book is inscribed, and whose name is written in the margins of dozens of pages? No one that I know. The book has passed through so many hands, through so many used bookstores, that its origins are effectively lost. Still, it would be nice to know which of the book's owners is responsible for the puncture wound that pierces the book from cover to cover. It could have been made with a blowgun dart, and I would list myself as prime suspect except that I never had a blowgun as a kid. I might have pounded a nail through the book--my favorite pasttime was pounding nails through the wooden floor of our village house--but the puncture wound is too small to be made by any of the nails I had at my disposal. And in any case, I was always much too conscientious about such things. I would have been aghast at the thought of disfiguring a book.

I absolutely love this book. And no, you may not borrow it. It is mine, it is my precioussss science fiction book.

  • Far Centaurus
    Slower-than-light expedition to Alpha Centauri arrives to find that during their long voyage, mankind has developed FTL spaceships and explored the galaxy.
  • The Monster
    Aliens discover Earth devoid of all life. To determine what happened, they revive some of the dead. But the power of the re-animated humans is more than they bargained for.
  • Dormant
    Nuclear weapons tests awaken an eons-dormant rocklike creature who was buried in the Earth's crust.
  • The Enchanted Village
    Man stranded on Mars finds a deserted Martian village. The automated village provides food and shelter suitable for the long-extinct Martians. Can the village be taught to adapt to the needs of a human before the man dies for lack of food and water?
  • A Can of Paint
    First man on Venus finds a sinister can of paint.
  • Defense
    A short-short about nuclear war.
  • The Rulers
    Drugs, mind control, and an ancient secret society dedicated to world domination.
  • Dear Pen Pal
    Alien from hot planet writes letters to a human.
  • The Sound
    A little boy named Diddy goes out to discover the source of the strange noise that permeates the city. In his search he meets some of the dread enemy Yevd.
  • The Search
    Drake awakens in a hospital with no memory of the past two weeks.

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