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

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  3,420 Ratings  ·  171 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
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
Dec 16, 2008 Manny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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.
Oct 24, 2014 Denis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hardcover, special
I've read this three times now. Every time I do, it feels like I'm reading it for the first time. So weird, yet I really like it. It is such a strange book; like reading a standard classic from a parallel universe. "Is this what a great novel is like in your world?" In mine it's all wrong; sloppy disjointed, illogical, but if you put yourself in that other world (van's world), it is a master piece of scifi literature.

It is inspired by the pseudoscience work "Science and Sanity: An Introduction t
Drew Perron
Tell me if this sounds like a modern-day young adult novel:

In the City of the Machine, the Games take place. For a month, there are no laws and no police, as the participants in the Games make their way through dozens of tests of their mental abilities. Success in the Games unlocks a good life. Those who make it through the first week are guaranteed well-paying jobs, and the further you go, the better it gets. But only the winners get the ultimate prize - going to the mysterious planet Venus.

May 21, 2013 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi, reread
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
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
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
Dec 28, 2015 R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
He began to think of the necessity of making a determined effort to escape. But not yet. Funny, to feel that so strongly. To know that learning about himself was more important than anything else. (pgs. 45-46)

Picked this book up at the local library because PKD kept namedropping it throughout The Last Interview and Other Conversations. It's easy to see why he gave nods to it - it has got the shifting realities, shifting bodies, shifting body-realities and the requisite femme fatale.

Buck Ward
This is a very strange book. I had read that it influenced some of the great science fiction writers of the golden age, including Philip K Dick. I guess I can believe it. It's very dickian. At times it is disjointed, confusing, even incomprehensible. I attribute that the the authorship of van Vogt. It could have been much better written. There is virtually no character development, and the motivations and loyalties of the characters is confusing.

The World of Null-A. Null-A means non-Aristotelian
Peter Kazmaier
I had a hard time deciding between two stars and three stars for this novel. In the end, I decided on two stars. I found the definition of non-Aristotelian (Null-A) thought an ill-defined and incoherent concept. From my perspective Null-A seemed to imbue the adherents with super-human mental acuity completely disconnected from "integrating animal (thalamus) and human (cortex) parts of the brain.

In the Foreword the author tried to shed some light on Null-A. He says: "In World, we have the Null-A
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
Иван Величков
Много любим автор и един от най-добрите от старата генерация в личната ми ранг листа. Книгата разгръща една космическа опера в която разликите между планетните общества се базират изцяло на етични различия, преминали в цялостни социални структури и правещи разбирателството между културите, макар да са човеци, в пъти по-невъзможно от това между хора и друга раса.
Джилбърт Госейн разбира, че някой му е насадил фалшиво минало, но не знае с каква цел. Докато се опитва да открие себе си се оказва заме
Jan 25, 2012 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 20, 2014 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 30, 2013 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
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)
Jul 19, 2009 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ike Oglesby
Sep 17, 2012 Ike Oglesby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 04, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
1981 grade A-

Series book NA1
Jan 22, 2015 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can tell how this guy was a big influence on Philip K. Dick, but the bizareness of his ideas is upstaged by the lack of his skill in storytelling.
Jun 07, 2009 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
Storyline: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Writing Style: 1/5
World: 5/5

This was my first A.E. van Vogt experience. I can see why Philip K. Dick was inspired by the mysterious, incoherent ideas of Null-A. I can also see why Damon Knight named it "one of the worst allegedly adult science fiction stories ever published." The two are not mutually exclusive. I was initially enchanted by what Null-A meant and the world crafted by Vogt. I was thereafter continually frustrated and pained by the writing and developmen
Jan 27, 2008 Jeff rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
[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
Mar 23, 2008 Rachael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf
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
Nuno Magalhães
Apr 29, 2012 Nuno Magalhães rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ATENÇÃO: EVITAR A TODO O CUSTO!
Shelves: scifi
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.
Some elements are very badly dated, and what's with the everybody getting tied up and gagged every chapter? Also some fascinating ideas, but nobody would ever mistake this book for a great piece of literature.
Jul 07, 2015 Tarmo rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mulle e istu eriti seda tüüpi ülesehitusega raamatud, kus peategelane ei saa alguses mitte millestki aru, siis satub järjest pöörasematesse olukordadesse ja lõpuks selgub, kuidas asjad tegelikult on. Ulme pool pani lihtsalt õlgu kehitama.
David Johnston
Reads about as well as you expect from a book where the premise is that logic is a force for evil.
Sep 29, 2014 Steve marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Not to be confused with The World of Null-A-is-A.
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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)
  • The Players of Null-A (Null-A #2)
  • Null-A Three

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“And the more technically developed a nation or race is, the more cruel, ruthless, predatory, and commercialized its systems tend to become … all because we continue to think like animals and have not learned how to think consistently like human beings. A. K.” 4 likes
“[He] had the hard eyes of the disciplinarian and the smile of a man who must be tactful and pleasant to many people.” 2 likes
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