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The World of Null-A (Null-A #1)

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  2,623 ratings  ·  111 reviews
The classic novel of non-Aristotelian logic and the coming race of supermen

Science Fiction Grandmaster A. E. van Vogt was one of the giants of the 1940s, the Golden Age of classic SF. Of his masterpieces, The World of Null-A is his most famous and most influential. Published in 1949 it was the first major trade SF hardcover, and has been in print in various editions ever s
Paperback, 224 pages
Published 1971 by Sphere (first published 1945)
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An extremely strange occurrence. Many years ago, when I was in my early teens, I read A.E. van Vogt's World of Null-A, which is about as good as most of A.E. van Vogt's oeuvre - that is to say, not very good at all. I was however struck by his preface, where he boasted that this novel, all by itself, had more or less established the French SF market. Even at age 14, I was puzzled. Why?

Much later, I discovered that van Vogt's unimpressive book had in fact been translated by Boris Vian, author of
4.0 stars. One of the better novels by A. E. Van Vogt and certainly one of his most famous. Big ideas, cool concepts and a fast paced plot. Above average science fiction from the Golden Age.

Nominee: Retro Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction novel.
Charles Dee Mitchell
Science fiction writer A. E. van Vogt liked big ideas. In the 1950's he became head of fellow sf writer L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics Institute, the secular precursor to the Church of Scientology. When Hubbard's institute failed within a year, van Vogt and his wife formed their own institute and kept it going for the entire decade.

Earlier, the big idea that captivated van Vogt was the Gerneral Semantics program of the Polish count Alfred Korzybski, a program defined in the count's 800 page self - p
The book brings back to me the 1950s. Names like Eldred Crang and Hari Seldon (this from Isaac Asimov's Foundation series), Intergalactic wars. Highly advanced devices with tubes like an old Emerson TV set. Planets in our solar system that could sustain life. Take, for instance, this description of Venus:
Gosseyn said, "Doctor, what is Venus like -- the cities, I mean?"

The doctor rolled his head sideways to look at Gosseyn, but did not move his body.

"Oh, much like earth cities, but suited to the
Continuing this year in my exploration of classic SF I thought I would take a look at a famous novel by van Vogt. It turns out that van Vogt was a Canadian from a Mennonite community in Manitoba. He was an amazingly prolific author who moved to LA right after the war. There he became quite interested in the concepts of General Semantics or non-Aristotelian logic (Null-A). I'm no logician but from what I understand Aristotelian logic assumes binary states for a statement (e.g. The dog is a collie ...more
An extremely strange occurrence. Many years ago, when I was in my early teens, I read A.E. van Vogt's World of Null-A, which is about as good as most of A.E. van Vogt's oeuvre - that is to say, not very good at all. I was however struck by his preface, where he boasted that this novel, all by itself, had more or less established the French SF market. Even at age 14, I was puzzled. Why?

Much later, I discovered that van Vogt's unimpressive book had in fact been translated by Boris Vian, author of
Intanto, mi aspettavo un'altra cosa. Il libro si svolge in un mondo dove non funziona il pensiero aristotelico, sentivo dire. E dal titolo, Non-A, mi stavo appunto attendendo una fantasia su una realtà in cui non vige necessariamente il principio di non contraddizione. Se si parla di Aristotele, è a questo che si pensa, no?
Una stuzzicante fantasia logica e cerebrale per giocare, per provare a far ballare un po' di pilastri prestabiliti.
E invece a Van Vogt non interessa seminare troppi dubbi, ma
Right from the outset this is a mind-bending, roller coaster ride of twists and turns. Don't expect detailed world building and character development, that is not what Van Vogt is all about. He is instead concerned with exploring his crazy ideas and plot twists.

In the opening chapter we discover that the protagonist, Gilbert Gosseyn, is not who he thinks he is as his memories are proven false. Gosseyn (and the reader) are then thrown into a state of confusion which lasts throughout the book. A l
[from my book lover's journal; review probably written a month or two after reading]
I thought, "Maybe it was just Slan that sucked; it was his first book after all." But it wasn't—in my opinion Van Vogt sucks. Some dude at an online SF site claimed that VeeVee's "stories don't seem to have any logic, but somehow they work"—i give that reviewer half credit because not only do the stories seem to have no logic, they actually don't have any logic. Unless you think that the need for action is a suff
I read this one for an SF reading group I'm in, and didn't particularly enjoy it and will probably not read van Vogt again. Sure, it's a fun, crazy ride - but I don't take much away from it. The writing is unremarkable. The misogyny is tired. The unknowable characters are just ridiculous by the end. I recommend this one for true SF nerds only.

I've seen a lot of complaints about the incomprehensible plot: but in some ways I feel that's intensional (and maybe the one thing I enjoy about this book)
The quality of the ideas far exceeds the plot--a world in the far future governed non-Aristotelian logic (not really explained, but hinted at with phrases like "the word is not the thing, the map is not the territory") and a Games Machine. But these ideas are not developed, instead some fellow who doesn't know who he is has to battle an intergalactic gang trying to destroy this null-A paradise. I was given little reason to care, and only gave the book the second star because the germ at the begi ...more
John (Taloni) Taloni
I'm inclined to give Vogt the benefit of the doubt because he's written such classics as Slan, and Voyage of the Space Beagle was ripped off not once but twice for James Cameron movies (the alien and the T-1000 terminator.) This book is a classic in the sense that it was popular during the heyday of SF in the 1940s, but is very dated today.

The book covers the idea that humanity can develop superhuman powers of concentration and ability through development of non-Aristotelian thought - that is, e
Nuno Magalhães
Aug 12, 2013 Nuno Magalhães rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ATENÇÃO: EVITAR A TODO O CUSTO!
Péssima experiência. Este livro é horrível: uma história completamente descabida, cheia de incongruências e frases sem sentido - um autêntico atentado ao leitor que tenta retirar algum senso do que está escrito, e que faz um esforço sobre-humano para chegar até ao final na vâ esperança de encontrar alguma substância. É um engano: trata-se de um livro de fugir! Uma pura perda de tempo; dá mesmo a impressão de ter sido escrito num estado de alucinação. Este é um autor a evitar a qualquer custo.
A whirlwind of a read. I read this on the recommendation of a friend, and because of a superb short story by van Vogt called "The Weapons Shop." It illustrates very well the price an author pays for writing a true page-turner. The action never lets up in The World of Null-A, but Van Vogt's penchant for cliffhangers at the end of each chapter obstruct the achievement of a cohesive structure with which to effectively dramatize the very interesting ideas he's exploring.
Matteo Pellegrini
Chi è Gilbert Gosseyn? Un uomo cui è morta la moglie? Un agente segreto? Un grande capo? Una semplice pedina in una gigantesca partita a scacchi? Lui stesso non lo sa, e la sua lunga, drammatica ricerca è il filo che lega gli episodi di questo romanzo, tra i grandi classici della fantascienza. Come in una scatola cinese, l’enigma che pesa sul protagonista si apre su altri enigmi sempre più stupefacenti, in un complesso, perfetto congegno narrativo dove si fondono magistralmente suspense e filos
Ike Oglesby
This is the book that hooked me on Sci-Fi. I was enthralled and fascinated by the cover (Ace paperbacks), the characters, the plot and, most importantly, by the ideas of science fiction. I have been reading them ever since. Thanks Mr Van vogt.
Aaron Bellamy
The World of Null-a is a fascinating and strange book. The style is somewhat matter of fact, very much in line with its many contemporary pulp bretheren. The main character, Gosseyn, doesn't really drive the story so much as the story just happens to him. He almost comes across as a kind of Mr. Magoo character, stumbling around in a world that he believes to understand, but doens't. But there is a delightful quality to the dangers and adventures he happens through. I found myself feeling a sense ...more
David Johnston
Reads about as well as you expect from a book where the premise is that logic is a force for evil.
This book really seems to polarise peoples opinions of it. I found it after seeing it discussed online as one of the most important 20th century scifi books. This book and its author inspired some of the greatest scifi writers of the 2nd half of last century, notably Philip K. Dick.

Although the technology ideas in the book are now extremely dated, the overall story is fascinating and I found myself glued to it.
The writing style can be confusing and the author doesn't bother to explain every de
Some interesting ideas, but really poorly written. Hard to understand what was going on, especially during the parts that were supposed to be explanatory. Reminded me a lot of the one book (sorry I don't remember which) I tried by Ayn Rand. At least I got through it - and since I didn't (and won't) read Slan, at least I got through one by this over-rated author.

"Even to his trained brain, the reorientation necessary to acceptance of President Hardie of Earth as a plotter was a hurdle too big for
Roddy Williams
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This a novel from the 'golden age' of SF, when galaxies could be crossed in a matter of days in fully electric rocket ships and no one thought to explain how. Such innocence!

Gilbert Gosseyn arrives in the City of the Machine in the year 2650 planning to take part in The Games in order to have a crack at going to live on Venus. He's home and dry so long as he can demonstrate that he's assimilated the null-A philosophy.

But Gilbert isn't who he thinks he is. In fact his head is stuffed with false m
I love classic science fiction from the forties and fifties. The two things I find most interesting about reading novels from that era are future technology and how wrong or right they got it; and the less formulaic storytelling style. This book is no exception.

Van Vogt writes about Gilbert Gosseyn, a member of the null-A society who is hoping to improve himself in the competition held by the Games Machine in the year 2560. What is null-A? It is a way of thinking that casts-off the dogma of the
Having written a couple of books I know that sometimes you just can't find the right word or sentence to make a lucid point. So what you do is you use a word, any word and hope something better hits you on the next revision. It seems that AEvV also did this, but never ever found the right word, and possibly never revised. Here's a good example:

> Gosseyn was cold with the cold which derives from the nervous system.

What. The. Hell.

I believe the author's greatest skill was that come what may, he
The World of Null-A is a mixed bag. All too frequently I found myself having to stop and re-read sections to figure out basic plot points (and this was generally because of a basic lack of clarity in key scenes, not because of a particularly advanced concept) and found it difficult to integrate the two major drives of the book, one toward political thriller regarding interplanetary and galactic war and one toward speculation about human and social evolution.

These two drives are definitely relat
This was one of my favorites of the many novels of A. E. VanVogt that I read during my teen years. I am sure I did not have a good understanding of Aristotle's thought when I first read about the non-Aristotelianism that was the basis for The World of Null-A. That did not matter, for Gilbert Gosseyn, the hero of the book, was my hero. He was my first encounter with the many types of super heroes that populate Van Vogt's science fiction.
Gilbert Gosseyn was a man living in an apparent utopia wher

non saprei come definire questo libro.
é il mio primo approccio a lui e..l'ho trovato geniale e pesante allo stesso tempo!

geniale perchè si parla della psicologia del mondo futuro...niente descrizione di pianeti di tecnologie, di storia per farci capire come si è guinti fin lì...solo l'uomo e la sua mente ... e una macchinazione per la conquista degli ultimi pianeti (Terra e Venere) per il dominio assoluto della galassia.

Mi è davvero piaciuto ma in alcuni momenti non lo reggevo per vi
Oddly, there's a cover quote from The New Yorker on this edition--"Fine for addicts of science fiction". This is not actually an endorsement or compliment.

At some point of this rocket-powered sled ride I started wondering: would a background in (van Vogt's version of) General Semantics make this novel more comprehensible? The characters, and indeed most of the story, doesn't seem to make conventional sense, and things sort of happen because they need to push Gosseyn into the events of the next c
David Merrill
I re-read this for a group read for a meet-up group. I remember reading it as a kid and liking it a lot. This time through I could see its flaws and it definitely is a bit dated. It was written in the 40's after all. For my older taste it could have been fleshed out more. I started Players of Null-A. It seems like World is just a lead in to it.
Veramente appassionante e coinvolgente, questo thriller fantascientifico vecchia maniera è "rovinato" solo dal fatto che la trama è un pelo troppo confusa.
Specialmente nella seconda parte, quando i colpi di scena si ripetono con eccessiva frequenza e vengono introdotti personaggi nuovi che, per il poco tempo restante nel romanzo, non riescono ad essere sviluppati a dovere.
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Alfred Elton van Vogt was a Canadian-born science fiction author regarded by some as one of the most popular and complex science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century—the "Golden Age" of the genre.

van Vogt was born to Russian Mennonite family. Until he was four years old, van Vogt and his family spoke only a dialect of Low German in the home.

He began his writing career with 'true story' ro
More about A.E. van Vogt...

Other Books in the Series

Null-A (3 books)
  • Players Of Null-a
  • Null-A 3
The Weapon Shops of Isher Slan (Slan, #1) The Voyage of the Space Beagle The Weapon Makers Players Of Null-a

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