Author Profile - A. E. Van Vogt


A. E. Van Vogt is probably the most frustrating science fiction author in the entire world to me. The is because the first two books of his I ever read were great. I spent a great deal of time chasing down and reading a lot of his other works, only to find that those two were practically the only good ones he ever wrote! He doesn't really have a style. He's got one book with variations: super-powered central character is beset by adversaries, which he eventually overcomes. The character's super-powers are the result of a particular kind of philosophy, intellegence, psychic power, or the like. Mostly, he prevails by wit. Now if well-written, this can be a good story line. But when it's the only one you have, it is disappointing. Nonetheless, the books of his that are well-done are great, In My Humble Opinion.

Stories to Read First

In fact, the only ones worth reading. The Weapon Shops of Isher, and its sequel, The Weapon Makers. The latter was in fact the first book of his I read. To this day, I think it is one of the finest science fiction stories ever written. His central character, Robert Hedrock, is supposed to have an IQ of order 200 or more. And by George, I believed it. He convinced me. Not an easy feat. He has one other great book, Voyage of the Space Beagle. This novel is essentially three novellas tied together. The first one involves this panther-like alien on a post-nuclear war planet. It is historic because it was the cover story for the historic Astounding Magazine that featured this story, the first story by Isaac Asimov, and another first I forget just now. And it is a rattling good yarn. So are the other two novellas. The protagonist is an advocate of "Nexialism", or the science of everything, and how it fits together. This, as with much of his work, has echoes of Scientology. This is because Van Vogt was an early devotee of Dianetics (later Scientology) and in fact started his own offshoot of it.