Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The World of Null-A ***

Another from the bookshelves. While I remember The Weapon Shops of Isher fondly, this was the book on the book shelf. The World of Null-A by A E van Vogt is famous, in part, for the scathing criticism written by a young Damon Knight. So famous that it is mentioned in the author's introduction to the 1970 rewrite (which I read).

The book suffers from two major problems: The first is the attempt to raise General Semantics to the level of some cult, mystical religion. General Semantics, popular post-WWII, reached the height of notoriety in the late-1960s when proponent S I Hayakawa was appointed head of SFSU. The World of Null-A is an like fan fiction for General Semantics, both star stuck and silly.

Which comes the the second problem... while when the author stops shilling for General Semantics, he write great chapters, but the overall flow of the plot is characterized a protagonist George Gosseyn (author's note: pronounced Go SANE) who bounces through the narrative into and out of danger, like some Perils of Pauline, never effecting his peril or affecting his rescue.

The novel is set in 2560, with the conventional future imagining of the post-WWII period ... including videophones, atomic flashlights, and ubiquitous vacuum tubes.

Unless your are one of the remaining members of the General Semantics cult, this is best left to collect dust wherever it might be.

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