The Worlds of A. E. van Vogt

by A. E. van Vogt
Reviewed date: 2007 Apr 24
330 pages
Previously published as The Far-Out Worlds of A. E. van Vogt
cover art

Van Vogt writes good stories, but they are hard to read. It's a matter of structuring, I think. He jumps from scene to scene without any cues to the reader. Something as simple as an extra blank line, a horizontal line, or a section marker, could improve his stories tremendously. A related problem is that he uses that crummy old trick of hiding something from the reader that everyone in the story knows, and that requires him to jump through hoops in his writing. But still, van Vogt writes good stories. I particularly liked The First Martian and Fulfillment. Itself! is not bad, and The Earth Killers is decent. But Process is by far the best. I found The Reflected Man to be poor, Ship of Darkness poor, and Purpose--although it has its moments--is unsatisfactory. Overall, the stories in this book is not as good as those in Destination: Universe.

  • The Replicators: An angry farmer kills an alien hoping for a reward, and it turns out he is the only man capable of driving the aliens away and saving the world.
  • The First Martian: Only natives from the Andes mountains are at home in the thin Martian air, but they face an uphill battle against the racism of the white Westerners who rule Mars.
  • The Purpose: A professor uncovers a cabal that provides influential politicians with illicit organ transplants.
  • The Earth Killers: A test pilot flying an experimental spacecraft is the only witness to the flight path of the nuclear missiles that decimate America, and somebody wants him dead before his testimony can finger the guilty party that sent the missiles.
  • The Cataaaaa: A circus freak show specimen is an alien studying Earth.
  • Automaton: In the war between robots and men, the robots turn men into automatons and send them back to kill their own friends.
  • Itself!: The king of the Philippine deep destroys an alien spacecraft that is hiding under the sea.
  • Process: A self-aware forest draws uranium ore out of the soil and uses it to construct nuclear bombs to kill its neighboring forests.
  • Not the First: The first faster-than-light trip turns into a time-looping disaster when the crew is unable to slow down.
  • Fulfillment: A machine that sits on a hill travels back in time to learn about its own past, and comes into conflict with a self-aware computer Brain created by men.
  • Ship of Darkness: D'Ormand leaps forward 30,000 years in a time machine, where he helps a group of advanced men win a war and dissolve into oneness with the Great Cause, then makes a new life for himself.
  • The Ultra Man: A man goes to the moon and develops a super-power that lets him read minds by looking at faces; one face he looks at is not human, and now he must save mankind from an unknown alien threat.
  • The Storm: A Mixed Man (the product of union between a Dellian and non-Dellian robot) guides an invading ship into an interstellar storm.
  • The Expendables: When a generation-ship makes contact with an inhabited planet, John Lesbee tries to unseat Captain Browne and seize command of the ship.
  • The Reflected Man: A crystal, when focused on a person, selects the best possible person from all universes, and destroys the other second-rate versions.

I sit on a hill. I have sat here, it seems to me, for all eternity. Occasionally I realize there must be a reason for my existence. Each time, when this thought comes, I examine the various possibilities, trying to determine what possible motivation I can have for being on the hill. Alone on the hill. Forever alone on a hill overlooking a long, deep valley.

[Opening of Fulfillment]

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