Friday, February 22, 2008

08.03 The World Of Null-A by AE van Vogt

The World of Null-A (1948) by A.E. van Vogt
Pbk, Bantam, 221 pp.

Continuing this year in my exploration of classic SF I thought I would take a look at a famous novel by van Vogt. It turns out that van Vogt was a Canadian from a Mennonite community in Manitoba. He was an amazingly prolific author who moved to LA right after the war. There he became quite interested in the concepts of General Semantics or non-Aristotelian logic (Null-A). I'm no logician but from what I understand Aristotelian logic assumes binary states for a statement (e.g. The dog is a collie). Null-A logic assumes there are three or more values for every statement. This can all get highly semantic and we are here to review a book so...

van Vogt popularized these concepts in a series of Null-A books of which The World of Null-A was the first. In the year 2650 humans live in a vast and comforting utopian society. Individuals train to think in a non-Aristotelian pattern so that they may compete in the Game which is run by an immense machine. Those that succeed will advance to higher positions in life and the best will be allowed to go live on Venus where all is idyllic. The hero, Gilbert Gosseyn (pronounce it "go sane"), appears to be a man trying to follow this path. He attempts to enter the Game but finds himself caught up in a vast conspiracy where his identity is suspect and where ultimately he may hold the balance of power for the entire universe.

The novel is complex but entirely readable. Even though the book is from the 1940's there are some really compelling SF situations that make for an interesting novel.

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