Review: Slan by A E van Vogt

Slan might be the first science fiction book that I ever checked out of a library – at any rate, it’s the first one I remember checking out.  Supermen are one of van Vogt’s favorite themes and Slan might have been is first.  It’s my latest read in the classic SF jag I’ve been on lately.  I found the intervening decades had wiped out all knowledge of the characters and plot and the only imagery I retained was the hero’s ability to use his super strong muscles to climb buildings by clinging to the tiny chinks between bricks.

Slan opens on a scene in a world where the Slan are fiercely and murderously persecuted by the majority humans, and a mother and her nine-year-old son have been detected by Department of Security who are closing in.  Non stop action continues for several chapters with catastrophe and narrow escapes abounding.

The Slan have a number of superpowers and are accused of monstrous crimes.  Given the late 1940’s date, parallels to the Holocaust are inevitable.

Van Vogt was one of my very favorite SF authors in my early adolescence, and I found that holds up well.  He keeps the action hot and heavy.  Don’t look for realist biology, physics, or planetary geology though – a lot has been learned in the last 80 years.

There are also some lapses in the coherence of the overall story.  Van Vogt wrote for the pulp SF magazines, which often serialized their stories, so that coherence might be lost by the usual classical and quantum mechanisms.  Over a good story, even if I found the finale a bit implausible.


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