by A. E. van Vogt
Reviewed date: 2005 Jul 5
Rating: 4
255 pages
cover art
cover art

Jommy Cross is a slan. Slans look human, but have slightly different internal organ structure (they have two hearts!) and they can read minds. Human beings have waged a war of extermination against slans, whom they accuse of committing unnameable atrocities against human babies.

Jommy's parents are killed by humans, but Jommy escapes. He must lie low and survive until he is old enough to fight back against humans. Meanwhile, dictator-of-the-world Kier Gray raises and studies a slan named Kathleen Layton. Gray's advisors all want him to kill Kathleen (it is the stated policy of the government to kill all slans) but Kier Gray remains adamant that Kathleen must be studied, at least until she becomes dangerous.

And so the stage is set for a showdown between humans and slans. Too bad A. E. van Vogt isn't a better writer. Slan suffers from having been serialized, so its action is in a series of perpetual cliff-hangers. Further, van Vogt's writing it unclear at times, forcing the reader to fill in the blanks that van Vogt leaves out. It's just shoddy writing that an editor should have corrected.

But Slan is a classic, and well worth reading. Some of the ideas are dated, so I don't recommend it to casual readers, but Slan should be on the reading list of any science fiction fan.

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