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The World of Null-A Paperback – October 25, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Null-A Series

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Editorial Reviews


“A. E. Van Vogt's early stories broke like claps of thunder through the science fiction field. Such novels as Slan, The Weapon Shops of Isher, and The World of Null-A, all were written with invention, dramatic impact, and a sense of breathless wonder that won him instant popularity” ―Jack Williamson

“After more than half a century I can still recall the impact of his early stories.” ―Arthur C. Clarke

“Interplanetary skullduggery in the year 2650. Gilbert Gosseyn has a pretty startling time of it before he gets to the root of things. Fine for addicts of science-fiction” ―The New Yorker

“One of those once-in-a-decade classics” ―John W. Campbell

“A. E. van Vogt was one of the first genre writers ever to publish an actual science fiction book, at a time when science fiction as a commercial publishing category did not yet exist, and almost all SF writers--even later giants such as Robert A. Heinlein--were able to publish novels only as serials in science fiction magazines. It's indicative of the prestige and popularity that van Vogt could claim at the time that he was one of the first authors to whom publishers would turn when taking the first tentative steps toward establishing science fiction as a viable publishing category. . . . Nobody, possibly with the exception of the Bester of The Stars My Destination, ever claim close to matching van Vogt for headlong, breakneck pacing, or for the electric, crackling paranoid tension with which he was capable of suffusing his work.” ―Gardner Dozois

About the Author

A. E. Van Vogt was a SFWA Grand Master. He was born in Canada and moved to the U.S. in 1944, by which time he was well-established as one of John W. Campbell's stable of writers for Astounding Science-Fiction. He lived in Los Angeles, California and died in 2000.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books (October 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765300974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765300973
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book changed my brain. The story centers on the 'life' of Gilbert Gosseyn (Go-Sane), a man with a very special brain. As a contestant in the Game, a challenging test of one's ability to master Null-A (non-Aristotelian logic), Gilbert hopes to achieve one of the better prizes, citizenship on Venus or even the Presidency. But a conspiracy of shadowy players and public figures have other plans for Gilbert and his special brain. Gilbert is a surprisingly resilient challenge to their power. And a great surprise to himself, as well. As he discovers more about himself, he also learns more about a larger game being played by hidden masters who control whole galaxies.
At first a humble and unwitting pawn, Gilbert is quickly promoted as he progresses through the ranks in unorthodox and interesting ways.

In addition to the great pulp-style sci-fi story, A.E. Van Vogt adds a lot of interesting semantic theory by beginning each chapter with a quote for Alfred Korzybski's work SCIENCE AND SANITY. "The Map is not the territory it represents" is one of the shorter, and most easily understood. They get progressively more challenging, mirroring Gilbert's story. The Korzybski excepts are worth the price of the book alone. If you're interested in a good old sci-fi tale with conspiracies, space battle and other planets, as well as some thing which actually challenges your own mental processes, check it out.
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"The World Of Null-A" is a tremendously influential work in the SF genre. It was first published in August - October of 1945 in "Astounding Science Fiction", however that version is quite a bit different from the version which was published in book form in 1948. A final revision was published in 1970, which was very close to the 1948 version.

The core of the story is set in the year 2650, and is told from the point of view of Gilbert Gosseyn, who discovers very early on that all his memories are not real. He is being used as a pawn in a struggle for power.

The story of Gosseyn is interesting and the reader does want to find out what happens to him, but there are problems with the story as well. Key to the plot is the philosophy of Null-A (non-Aristotelianism), which is never clearly defined and thus can easily leave the reader confused. This is the first of three books in this series, so perhaps this problem will be resolved in the other books.

For my tastes, "Slan" was a better example of van Vogt's work. In addition, his Isher series is easier to follow as well. The other two books in the Null-A series are: "The Players of Null-A" and "Null-A Three".
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Format: Paperback
The World of Null-A (1948) is the first SF novel in the Null-A series. The Earth has been gradually influenced by the principles of General Semantics over several centuries under the direction of the Semantic Institute and the Games Machine. Those who show the greatest comprehension of these principles are transported to Venus to live in a Non-Aristotelian society. Those who don't score high enough to be allowed on Venus are awarded with high offices on Earth.

In this novel, Gilbert Gosseyn has traveled to the city of the Machine to participate in the annual Games. Joining the local self-protection group, his identity is challenged by a resident of his home town. A lie detector confirms that he is not Gilbert Gosseyn, but states that his true identity is not known within his mind.

Ejected by the hotel staff into the crime filled night, Gilbert is bewildered by these events. Without any warning, a young woman runs into him and almost knocks them both off their feet. The woman claims to be pursued by two men, but Gilbert doesn't see them.

Teresa Clark tells him that she has been evicted from her boarding house and lacks a place to spend the night. Gilbert finds them a vacant lot and they settle down amidst the bushes. During their discussion, various things she says and does contradict her story. The next day, he learns that she is actually Patricia Hardie, the woman that he had believed to be his dead wife.

In this story, Gilbert meets various members of a group that has taken over the government of Earth and Venus. Patricia's father is the President of Earth. Thorson is the personal representative of the leader of the Greatest Empire. Elred Crang is the commander of the local Greatest Empire forces and John Prescott is his vice-commander. Dr.
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Format: Paperback
If this book was released today I don't think it would be as critically praised as it has been and regarded as an outright classic of Golden Age SF. It's not that standards were lower back then, but the audience was different and looking for a different type of story, one that audiences today probably aren't as interested in. Of course, keeping in mind that, all nostalgia aside, most of the Golden Age SF, except for a handful of notable authors was mostly derivative crap, this book looks pretty good indeed. It's original, for the most part it's readable and often times fairly exciting. What we have here is a hero who has no idea who he really is fighting against an enemy and being manipulated every time he turns around. Like most novels of the period, Van Vogt wasn't about to let something as simple as plot get in the way of a good story and it shows. The book is supposed to be based around the concept of General Semantics which I admittedly know nothing about and didn't learn much from the book itself . . . the concept is never really fully explained except for general asides and most of the stuff "fully null-A people" would do strikes me as mostly common sense (attack an army at night? it takes a logical system of thought to figure that out) so I suspect there's more to it than Van Vogt shows us. The best way to read this book is as quickly as possible, preferably in one sitting . . . plots shift gears and scenes change so quickly and ideas are tossed out with such uncaring glee that when you're immersed in the story, it's great fun. But when you take a step back to think about it, you're not so pleased. But the ideas and the feelings are what make this story work and explains why people still read it fifty some odd years after its publication . . . it's certainly not for the sophisticated writing or the depth of charactization but simply because it's a fun book that at best will get you interested in General Semantics and at worst will simply entertain you.
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