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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Slan Hunter by A.E. Van Vogt and Kevin J. Anderson

Slan Hunter by A.E. Van Vogt and Kevin J. Anderson. New York: Tor, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-7653-1675-2

A.E. Van Vogt is one of the classic authors from the science fiction “golden age,” and his best-known novel was Slan, published in 1940. I remember reading and appreciating it, and I didn't start reading SciFi until the late '60's, when I was in high school. For me, it was one of those seminal, unforgettable novels that stick with you for the rest of your life.

So now, more than 65 years after the original, comes a sequel. Amazing! Although born in 1912, Van Vogt lived until 2000, and apparently, encouraged by his son Greg, he was at work on this sequel when he passed away, unfortunately suffering from Alzheimer's. Kevin Anderson was then commissioned to finish the novel, based on the outline and notes that the author had left behind.

While anyone who read and was, like me, wowed by the original Slan, will probably want to read this sequel, the effect is more than a little disappointing. But maybe I'd have the same reaction if I reread the original Slan now. I'm guessing I probably would.

So what's the problem? Quite simply, the plot and storyline are so so trite, so so not believable, so so not plausible or even feasible, that the effect is tedious in the extreme. Authors could get away with this kind of writing back in the so-called golden age, I guess, because we readers didn't know any better, and because the ideas behind the stories were so novel, that our imagination was captivated, and we could overlook the poor plotting.

Nowadays, we're much more sophisticated as readers, and having experienced decades of progress, in which SciFi has adopted the techniques of mainstream fiction, and the quality of writing has far far exceeded those early potboilers, we are no longer willing to put up with this low level of plotting and story telling.

My conclusion? Recommended only for those who were enthralled by the original Slan, and just have to know what happened next, or who want to wallow in a little nostalgia. But if you've been reading and enjoying much science fiction in the intervening decades, you'll find this effort decidedly less than enthralling.

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