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Slan by Alfred Elton Van Vogt

Slan (original 1940; edition 2003)

by Alfred Elton Van Vogt, Augusta Mattioli (Translator)

Series: Slan (1)

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1,105157,493 (3.51)46
Authors:Alfred Elton Van Vogt
Other authors:Augusta Mattioli (Translator)
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

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Slan by A. E. Van Vogt (1940)


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This book speaks volumes about the difference in publishing between today and the '40s/50's/pick-an-olden-time. And maybe this comes from having just recently finished the 900+ pages of the latest volume of Game of Thrones. But one of my first impressions (beyond being impressed with the overall quality of the book) was that there is so much crammed in these 176 pages I couldn't help but think how easily it could be converted into a multi-book extravaganza.

On the one hand I think it is a pity that the story has not been fleshed out that way. On the other hand, the result is a tight, complete story that is far from bogged down in detail.

The upshot - It is a most excellent book. (I want to say novel, which, I guess it is, but by today's standards it might come in as a novelette. A mere quibble. I digress.)

It is the story of the Slan – humans who have special abilities which include the ability to read minds. The book follows the lives of two young Slan – separate stories that eventually come together – and it is a story that, in a very few pages, spans a great amount of time (taking the two protagonists well into adulthood) and themes. It is an exploration of how the Slan obtained their abilities (a major point of the book) and an exploration of the effect of xenophobia on the human race. This was probably a very compelling plot line at the time the book was written. And, in spite of time, it remains relevant and impactful today. Things just don't really change, do they?

There are a number of fascinating characters in the book that are not allowed to develop (again, the limitation placed on the author by the length of the book) and some interesting aspects of the civilization such as a side group of Slan who are not...complete...Slan, and the intrigue that is going on among the powers that be.

All in all, I wish I could have spent more time with this world and these people. I am not a fan of multi-book stories, but this is begging for a treatment that is, at least, a very long book.

But this is what we have, and it is a good thing to have, nonetheless.

By the way, to type the first line of this review I had to go back and look at the original publication date. I was shocked to see 1946. Aside from my comments about how slim the volume is, it should be emphasized and reemphasized that this book stands up in today's world. Van Vogt is a great, unsung writer of the past. And this book is evidence of just how good he was. ( )
  figre | May 7, 2015 |
Reactions upon reading this book in 1991. Spoilers follow.

I expected to like this book since I've liked the van Vogt short stories I've read. I did not like it. In fact, I found its 176 pages a tedious read.

I suppose part of it may have been its pulpiness, but I've read pulp I've liked. I like baroque plots, so I don't think I objected to the idea of back stage manipulations and twists and turns per se. But I don't think van Vogt handled it well. His idiosyncratic method of 800 word scenes was usually obvious and kind of fun to look for. But too much was left for the end-chapter revelations instead of being revealed piecemeal like more convential mystery/suspense plots. Van Vogt's 800 word method may prevent that.

The return, at end, of the allegedly dead Kathleen Layton Gray caught me by surprise, I must admi,t though it's very typical for sf of the period (must end with that marriage). I'll even admit Kier Gray, world dictator, turning out to be a slan caught me by surpirse; van Vogt effectively defused my suspicions of this in the middle of the novel.

Maybe my expectations killed my enjoyment of this book. Instead of getting a straightforward tale of a manhunt for mutants, I got a quest for a spaceship and manipulators and plot twists aplenty. And I found the payoff of accelerated evolution (to meet the demands of modern civilization), pacifistic slans forciably spurned on by persecution covertly directed by other slans so they can meet the attacks of normal humans, genetic manipulation, and atomic superscience dull and rather contrived.

I did think van Vogt did a good job with the emotional experience of telepathy though not as good as Alfred Bester in The Demolished Man. I thought the moral implications of protagonist Jommy Cross' "hypnotism crystals" terrifying. The slans' plan to re-engineer humans -- symbolized by what Cross does to the grotesque human Granny (an interesting character, perhaps the best done in the novel) psyche without their consent and allegedly for their own good raises moral questions. ( )
  RandyStafford | Nov 1, 2012 |
Quite a tedious and boring read to be honest, but then it is van Vogt's first novel. ( )
  sf_addict | Apr 2, 2012 |
This is one of the classics of science fiction, first published in 1946 (1940 serialized), written by A.E. van Vogt. It is the story of Jommy Cros, a Slan boy of nine years old. The Slan are more than human, have two hearts, tendrils on their heads and are telepathic. They are viciously hunted down by humans, who feel threatened by the slans. They think that the Slans want to take over the world, as they have tried this in the past. The story starts when Jommy’s mother is killed, and he is left to hide until he is fifteen and can carry out his secret mission, given to him by his already murdered father. Meanwhile we also follow Kathleen, another young slan kept prisoner by a human dictator.
During his long mission, which stretches out nearly ten years, Jommy learns a lot about the history of humans and slans and tries to bring the two closer together.
Even though the book is pretty short, it packs in a lot of adventure and ideas. The ending was pretty unexpected and ties everything wonderfully together. A classic that holds up pretty well even nearly 70 years after first being written. Four out five stars. ( )
1 vote divinenanny | Feb 24, 2012 |
This is a Masterpiece of Fiction???? C'mon, Eastern Press... u gotta b kidding!!!

Slan is the story of a tri-cornered war between Human Beings, Slans, and Tenrilless Slans. Slans are a mutation of humans that began to develop a thousand years before this story takes place; they are people of greater abilities and a longer life span than humans. So much greater the abilities, a war of fear raged for hundreds of years; humans won the war based on sheer numbers.... Slans have been in hiding, being hunted and killed like vermin. Then there are the Tendrillless Slans, you see, Slans have the ability of telepathy - which occur due to slim golden tendrils that come out of their head from their brain. Tendrilless Slans have all the mutations of regular Slans except telepathy - because they don't have tendrils, see?

All of the questions as to how and why of the mutated humans are answered in a very wordy fashion in the 2nd half of this book. Yawn... the second half is also full of starts and stops of characters, lines of thought, movement of the story. Very unsettling to be brought into a story line and then suddenly it is a new chapter and that line of writing is gone... the new characters are gone...

I think today the second half of the book would become a series of books. Each line of thought... of direction of the protagonist, could be a separate book... instead this short read is ruined by seeming unfinished and unsatisfying movement.

Now, the first half of the book is really really good! I became engrossed in the characters, I cared about the people I met and learned about... too bad the whole trip wasn't so good.

I gave this book a 3 out of 5 star rating only because the first half is so good. The second half deserves 1 star... maybe 1.5 stars. Slan was written in 1945... my husband said that maybe the story fell apart because writers weren't experienced in the '40's. WHAAAAAT???? I have read too many science fiction books of this era to believe that statement (he, my husband, must have been drinking when he said that).

I suppose this is not so much a review of the book as a rant on the disappointment of the story telling! Of all the Masterpieces of Science Fiction that Easton Press has put out (at least of the books I have read) this is the most disappointing. In my humble opinion, Easton Press needs to re-read Slan and perhaps make a different decision as to it's inclusion in this series.

Geepers... what a let down! ( )
  PallanDavid | Aug 7, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
A. E. Van Vogtprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, Kevin J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DiFate, VincentCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hubbell, Robert ECover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wiazemsky, PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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His mother's hand felt cold, clutching his.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312852363, Paperback)

Slan is legendary science fiction author A. E. Van Vogt's first and best-known novel, back in print from Tor Books's Orb imprint. The story is classic golden age science fiction: Jommy Cross is a slan, a genetically bred superhuman whose race was created to aid humanity but is now despised by "normal" humans. Slans are usually shot on sight, but that doesn't stop Jommy's mother from bringing him to see the world capital of Centropolis, the seat of power for Earth's dictator, Kier Gray. But on their latest trip to Centropolis, the two slans are discovered, and Jommy's mother is killed. Jommy, only 9 years old, unwittingly becomes caught up in a plot to undermine Gray, who may be more sympathetic to slans than the public suspects. The nonstop action and root-for-the-underdog plot has made Slan a science fiction favorite.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

'Slan' is the story of Jommy Cross, the orphan boy mutant, outcast from a future society prejudiced against mutants, who grows up to be a superman and to represent the next stage in human evolution.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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