REVIEW SUMMARY: Return to the world created by A.E. van Vogt in a fantastic conclusion to an epic saga. Wright offers this book as the final book in the trilogy and does a fantastic job.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Starting from the end of The Players of Null-A, we once again follow the exploits of Gilbert Gosseyn as he discovers his true origin and his true purpose. Can Gilbert unravel the very mysteries of creation itself in time to save the past and future universe?
PROS: Faithful reproduction of van Vogt’s classic style; epic Golden Age scope; very interesting characters.
CONS: Can be inscrutable in places – put your thinking cap on if you tackle this one; requires you to have read the first two books in the series.
BOTTOM LINE: John C. Wright delivers a very satisfying ending to a trilogy that began 60 years ago.
John C Wright took on a massive and daunting undertaking when he decided to write his own capstone to the Null-A trilogy (sanctioned by van Vogt’s widow.) Like many of us, he was totally unsatisfied with van Vogt’s own finale – which was written by van Vogt in the mid-80’s while he was in failing health and likely with uncredited ‘help’. The world of science fiction is better for it. Wright’s book is stunning in almost every regard – from style to plot to characters. Wright has recreated Van Vogt’s style down to the speech patterns of Gilbert and the other characters. Rest easy if you are concerned (as I was!) that a favorite world might be poorly exploited by a modern writer. This is homage with the deepest respect for what van Vogt has done for science fiction.
The tale we have here is complex and as broad as a book can get. I will not summarize the book more than I have done above. Suffice it to say that the story is a ride through history, the future, and the destruction and creation of worlds, galaxies, and entire universes. Did I mention Wright took on a daunting task? I can only tip my cap and be impressed with how he was able to take such awesome scope and complex concepts and bring them to life in a cohesive story.
The characters he inherits from van Vogt are already highly interesting and complex. I can’t give Wright the credit here, the grandmaster himself set them up. But Wright doesn’t do wrong by any of them, and instead allows them to come to life and behave in reasonable manners. They aren’t all predictable by any means, but nothing they do is out of character or out of alignment with van Vogt’s versions.
If you haven’t read the first two Null-A books, don’t even bother reading this one. It is simply too complicated to follow the twists and turns without a good understanding of who the major players are and what factions they are working with. Also, this is not a quick, light read by any stretch of the imagination. This is the first book written by Wright that I have read and if the rest are like this I’m anxious to get into them. You need to keep your brain engaged and focused throughout – similar to a Gene Wolfe book in many regards. I admit I had to reread sections on occasion to make sure I understood what was happening and who was involved (although I suspect this has more to do with me than it does with Wright’s prose.)
I was extremely happy to find such a quality book and return to one of my favorite science fiction worlds at the same time. If you are a Null-A fan, you owe it to yourself to read Null-A Continuum. If you aren’t a Null-A fan, then you haven’t read van Vogt’s originals and need to get crackin’!