All reviews copyright 1984-2018 Evelyn C. Leeper.
Asylum by A. E. van Vogt
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/11/2018]
"Asylum", by A. E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942): I'm sorry, but I just cannot get into Van Vogt. It is probably his writing method; as expressed in an interview with Jeffrey Elliot, Van Vogt explained, "I write my science fiction in eight-hundred-word scenes. Each scene has five steps." [Science Fiction Review #23] The underlying idea of this story might have been interesting, but so much stuff was piled on that it became tedious.
SLAN by A. E. Van Vogt:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/08/2016]
SLAN by A. E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science-Fiction, Dec 1940): When I was about thirteen years old, I discovered in our library John W. Campbell's "Black Star" series (THE BLACK STAR PASSES, ISLANDS OF SPACE, and INVADERS FROM THE INFINITE). I really enjoyed them at that age, and when I saw them a couple of years later or so for 45 cents each (new--it was a long time ago), I bought them, as some of the first books I ever bought. I suspect I might still enjoy them today ... but primarily for their sentimental value. The writing was very "whiz-bang", but fantastic invention piled on fantastic discovery. SLAN is like that (though with more attempt at social commentary), but without the sentimental value (for me, anyway). Yes, it's a classic, but there is a question whether that should get it a Retro Hugo. Are we voting for what was popular then, what was influential in the interim, or what reads like a Hugo nominee today? In some sense, only the latter makes sense--the non-Retro Hugos do not have the benefit of seventy-five years of hindsight, and it is impossible to judge the works of 1940 with 1940 eyes. If the Hugos (both current and Retro) are to be a recommendation list of sorts, then one must apply at least some level of current judgment, and in this it seems to be that SLAN does not measure up as well as some of the other works.
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"Vault of the Beast" by A. E. Van Vogt:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/15/2016]
"Vault of the Beast" by A. E. Van Vogt (Astounding, Aug 1940): This was added well into the voting, replacing Jack Williamson's "Darker Than You Think", which was discovered (somewhat belatedly) to be a novella rather than a novelette. Aspects of it bear a strong resemblance to TERMINATOR 2, even to the shape-shifting alien imitating the floor. But the mathematics are fingernails-on-a-blackboard to anyone with basic math knowledge. I will say that the numbers Van Vogt gives as examples of prime numbers do appear to be prime numbers, but that is small comfort when he claims there is an "ultimate" (i.e., largest) prime number. Quick proof: Assume N is the largest prime. Take the product of all numbers up to and including N (expressed as N!). Now consider N!+1. If is not divisible by any prime up to and including N--there is always a remainder of 1. So either it is itself prime, or it is divisible by a prime larger than N. Q.E.D.
"The Weapon Shop" by A. E. van Vogt:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/18/2018]
"The Weapon Shop", by A. E. van Vogt (Astounding Science Fiction, December 1942): This is yet another story about how arming civilians is important (I guess this may have been in response to the war in Europe). But Van Vogt was never an author to have just one idea, so he has portals to other planets and a scheme to defraud the main character as well. It later became part of the fix-up novel THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER.