Archive for the ‘A.E. Van Gogt’ Category

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The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt

December 27, 2012

The Book: The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt. Copyright 1951, printed in 1961 by Ace books, D-482.

The Weapon Shops of Isher

The Setting: Earth, 1951 and 4784.

The Story: The Weapon Shops sell guns. Guns which cannot be used against others, except in self defense. The government of Isher wants to destroy the shops. Things get a little timey-wimey. Also, a boy doesn’t want to go into the family business, goes to the big city, and gets in some deep trouble.

The Science: Clarke’s third law states that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This is the case with the Weapon shops. Their existence, their infrastructure, and their guns are all basically indistinguishable from magic. Apparently, the founder of the shops was a super genius who figured out how to imbue objects with the ability to determine the intent of an individual when an individual touches them. Magic. The rest of the Isher-world has to get by with corruption and not-a-little-bit of seediness.

The Reaction: Here’s another book I had a good time reading. I would stay up late just to read some more. There are a lot of points of view, and a few jarring moments, not to mention, the author seems to have a man-crush on one of his characters. But it was fun.

The Cover: Cover art by Harry Barton. Boy howdy, do I love this cover. Two guys in jeans and t-shirts are fighting in front of some super-neat device (a ray gun of some kind?), against a future-city backdrop. There’s so much energy in this cover. And you know the guns are from the future because they have those three little rings around the muzzle. And did I mention they’re wearing jeans and t-shirts? So awesome.

Etc: According to wikipedia, this book apparently is a bringing together of three stories from the same universe –

“The Seesaw” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, July 1941)
“The Weapon Shop” (Analog Science Fiction and Fact, December 1942)
“The Weapon Shops of Isher” (Wonder Stories, February 1949)

This explains some of the slight jarring I felt while reading, but they are sewn together pretty darn well.

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The Outer Reaches edited by August Derleth

December 22, 2012

The Book: The Outer Reaches: Favorite Science-Fiction Tales Chosen by their Authors  edited by August Derleth.  Originally published in 1951. The paperback edition contains 10 of the 17 stories from the hardback edition. Published  by Berkley Books, G-116.

The Outer Reaches

The Stories:

“Co-Operate—or Else!” –  A. E. van Vogt, 1942 – A man and his mortal enemy, a super-intelligent, telepathic, space panther, must survive on an extremely hostile planet.

“Good Night, Mr. James” – Clifford D. Simak, 1951 – A clever little story about a scientist who made a mistake and now must remedy it. Much fun.

“The Critters” – Frank Belknap Long, 1945 – An old man lives high up in the hills, away from an alien invasion. Didn’t care for this one.

“Death Sentence” – Isaac Asimov, 1943 – The government takes over the operations of a rogue archaeologist who has discovered an ancient civilization of robots-who-don’t-know-they’re-robots.

“This Is the Land” – Nelson S. Bond, 1951 – The children of the last survivor of a nuclear holocaust bury him on the surface.

“Ylla” –  Ray Bradbury, 1950 – From The Martian Chronicles. I skipped it here.

“The Green Cat” – Cleve Cartmill, 1951 – No one questions that there’s anything weird about a green cat with leaf-shaped ears.

“Pardon My Mistake” –  Fletcher Pratt, 1946 – A man, mad with jealousy, makes a mistake.

“The Plutonian Drug” –  Clark Ashton Smith, 1934 – Space travel leads to new medicines and drugs, including one that might just let you see into the future…

“Farewell to Eden” – Theodore Sturgeon, 1949 – A man and a woman, awakened from a long cryo-sleep, leave a bomb ravaged earth for a better home.

The Evaluation: These stories are all pretty good. And, if not, they’re pretty short. The idea of authors choosing a favorite tale is quite nice. “Good Night, Mr. James” is my favorite of the group as it hits a nice balance of clever, pacing, and length.

The Cover: No credit for the cover art. Sadly, the scene on the cover isn’t from any of the stories, but it is a fine science fiction scene. Though, I have to say, is seems a bit dangerous to have pick axes in a low atmosphere environment.

Next Up: The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt.

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Beachheads IN SPACE

October 3, 2012

The Book: Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Stories:

“The Blinding Shadows” – Donald Wandrei

“Repetition” – A.E. Van Vogt

“Metamorphosite” – Eric Frank Russell

“To People a New World” – Nelson Bond

“The Years Draw Nigh” – Lester Del Ray (read in a different book, but featured in this one as well)

“Breeds There a Man…?” – Isaac Asimov

“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down..” – John Wyndham

The Evaluation: Worth having!  There are a lot of fascinating ideas in this book, and even a few well written stories. I remembered about half of them, which is a pretty darn good ratio.

The Cover: Cover by Richard Powers. And, like so many of his, it’s excellent. It has a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.

Etc.: This is the second and last short story wrap up wherein all the stories of a volume are linked, as I am now moving to a new model of reading books of short stories when that volume was originally published, and blogging it as a volume.

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“Repetition” by A. E. Van Gogt

October 16, 2010

The Book: “Repetition” by A. E. Van Gogt. Originally published in 1940, Astounding Science Fiction. Edition read in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: Europa, Moon of Jupiter.

The Story: A famous statesman and former explorer named Thomas is to evaluate the colony on Europa, but finds himself in a struggle for life, just the same as his ancestors did, except also against a man as well as brutal natural forces.

The Science: The title of the story is the point of it – man keeps doing things the same way, so the social science is much more relevant than the hard science. In one episode, Thomas has to escape from a blood thirsty, ridiculously deadly extraterrestrial beast. So he takes a blade, cuts his hand and smears the blade with his own blood. Thomas wedges the handle of the blade into rock and hides. The beast starts licking the blood stained blade, gets excited by the taste of what is now its own blood from its lacerated tongue, and then dies. Thomas says the Eskimos killed wolves in this way.

I looked it up. The internet says this is true. Which is totally bad ass. So, 2 points for accurate ethnographic tidbits in science fiction!

The Reaction: I have a very high tolerance for poor writing. Very high. But I had a hard time getting past the second paragraph of this story. That paragraph commits many many sins against the written word. But I persevered and the writing calmed down to a more normal level. I’m intrigued by the incorporation of accurate ethnographic information into the story, but mostly I can’t recommend it. The writing is pretty poor and it’s too long for what it is. What a shame.

The Cover: Alas, no cover art credit for this book. Because it has got a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.

Next Up: “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell.  Oooohh… An interesting made up word from an author with three first names? Count me in.