BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Gilbert is playing a game where the winner gets a chance to either lead the planet Earth or migrate to the utopia of Venus. Unfortunately for him, he soon realizes his memories are invalid and he’s just a pawn apparently working to battle current leaders and an array of shadowy puppeteers.
PROS: Excellent breadth of thinking, strong presentation of ideas
CONS: Dated in some ways (colonization of Venus, for example)
BOTTOM LINE: One of the better sci-fi works written.
Centuries in the future, the world of man described by van Vogt can only be described as aspirational. There are still human frailties like greed and power-mongering, but many people have advanced beyond that. Eschewing Aristotle’s beliefs, the Null-A movement instead focuses on people who operate for the good of the global society at all turns. For example, when society lacks a doctor, people nominate themselves and the planet votes on the potential candidates. It is this idea that is van Vogt’s most interesting – a total selfless society that manages to work towards everybody’s overall success. And although it sounds communistic to me, van Vogt describes it as the height of democracy.
This book was written in the 1940’s and it is really enjoyable to read it remembering that many of the ideas presented here were new and fresh at the time of the writing. Massive supercomputers, robot-controlled planes, nuclear weapons, and the now hackneyed blaster weapons. The fact that it’s unlikely we’ll ever terraform Venus to the point where it is a near-utopia doesn’t bother me at all (unlike some others.) I guess it’s just easy for me to suspend my disbelief for stories like this – ones where I know the writer is being honest (in this case because he was imagining without knowing the truth.)
I enjoyed this book a lot and I would recommend it to any fan of classic science fiction.