The Silkie

by A. E. van Vogt
Reviewed date: 2008 May 21
Rating: 1
191 pages
cover art

I don't know why I keep picking up books by van Vogt. I don't like most of what he writes. The Silkie is a fix-up novel. That means it's nothing more than three short stories jammed together and sold to an unsuspecting public as a novel. Well, it's not. It's three stories. But it's presented as a novel, so I'm reviewing it that way.

The eponymous silkies are polymorphic beings who can shift into three shapes. The class-A Silkie stage is human. The class-B Silkie is a sea creature. The class-C Silkie is a space-going being, hardened against the vacuum of space. Silkies have extraordinary sensory perceptions, but they are no more intelligent than humans. They can manipulate mental energies as offensive and defensive weapons. Their most subtle and powerful weapon is the logic of levels. The logic of levels is some psychological hogwash that van Vogt never adequately explains. It works by manipulating latent emotions and urges within the mind. E.g., a Silkie defeats a shark attack by using the logic of levels to manipulate the shark's hunger center. Another example: a Silkie defeats a powerful opponent by using the logic of levels to stimulate the betrayal instinct in his enemy, causing him to reveal crucial information. The Silkies live on Earth and are the protectors of mankind.

The Silkie - The first story is simple enough. Nat Cemp, a powerful Silkie, learns of a threat to Earth. The alien Kibmadine race wishes to devour mankind in order to feed on the energy released by the death-throes of mankind. Cemp uses the logic of levels to trick the Kibmadine invader to devour itself instead.

Silkies in Space - Cemp discovers that there is a group of Silkies that don't live on Earth. The space Silkies live on an asteroid that is ruled by the Glis, a supremely powerful being from the antiquity of the universe. The Glis has survived by preserving the state of its own matter against change; while the universe grows old, the Glis still belongs to a young universe. The Glis steals the Earth to add to its collection of pretty planets. Cemp uses the logic of levels to trigger a change in the Glis; the Glis's component matter rapidly evolves to match the current state of the universe. Earth is saved.

Enemy of the Silkie - Cemp fights the Nijjans, the hereditary enemy of the Silkies. He uses the logic of levels to create and release a mental virus that destroys the Nijjans. Unfortunately, the Nijjans have tapped into the fabric of space, and their destruction destabilizes the universe. The universe collapses, and Cemp recreates a new universe to his specifications: exactly like the old one, except without the unpleasant bits.

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