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The Weapon Shops Of Isher (The Empire of Isher #2)

3.98  ·  Rating Details ·  3,360 Ratings  ·  71 Reviews
Ace Double D-53, printed with "Gateway to Elsewhere" by Murray Leinster
Paperback, 127 pages
Published October 1969 by New English Library (first published January 1st 1951)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Stephen
4.0 to 4.5 stars. This is a great example of the "big idea" science fiction classic. Set thousands of years in the future, the story revolves around the struggle between a corrupt empire and the mysterious "weapon shops" that provide the population with a means to insure that the government can never become all powerful. Libertarian SF at its best and arguably Van Vogt's best book ever.
Mike (the Paladin)
"The right to own weapons is the right to be free"


I own an omnibus edition of The Weapons Shop of Isher and The Weapons Makers now as the old paper backs are long gone. The only thing that keeps these from 5 star ratings is that they are not quite as "enthralling" as some reads. Still these are wonderful books and of course they will provoke thought and debate.

The weapons shops exist basically to keep the totalitarian government of the Empress Isher from being able to take the last step to comp
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J.G. Keely
Another dystopian outing by Van Vogt, and one which demonstrates moments of depth and subtlety surpassing his other work. Yet, at its heart, it suffers from the same ridiculous problems as most of his stories.

What may be most interesting about this book is how it feels like a prototype for the dark, socio-political sci fi of Philip K. Dick and the Cyberpunk authors. The characters try to move through complex, corrupt bureaucratic systems, and often end up beaten and weaker for it as they seek to
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Jim
May 03, 2016 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
During my teen years, when I thought that A.E. van Vogt could do no wrong, I somehow missed reading The Weapon Shops of Isher. I have finally closed that particular gap on this rather odd book -- one that the National Rifle Association would heartily sanction.

Isher is an incredibly corrupt empire ruled by a young empress whose heart is in the right place, though she is surrounded by cynical self-serving courtiers. Van Vogt writes:
When a people lose the courage to resist encroachment on their rig
...more
Steve Poling
Jan 07, 2012 Steve Poling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is '40s vintage pulp science fiction at its best. The plot is something of a mess with threads going off in all directions. But darned if I don't love it as much today as when I was a kid. Could Van Vogt have done better? Probably. But think of the times and what was expected of him. Besides, if it wasn't for the writers of the Golden Age, I would neither read nor write SF today. So, three cheers for A. E. Van Vogt and this wonderful little gem of writing.
Olivia
Sep 21, 2014 Olivia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Weapon Shops of Isher -- I tracked the book down recently after having read an excerpt years ago that held a certain level of personal significance for me.

The core message; "The right to buy weapons is the right to be free" - it's no surprise that the NRA and gun enthusiasts will love this line but do they understand it? Certainly the Weapon Shop philosophy is pro-gun...yet it is also pro-gun control. Impossible?

It's a SHORT novel so I'm going to attempt to minimize how much plot I actually
...more
Charles
Feb 16, 2017 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The right to be armed is the right to be free! This call, like the battle cry of the Archangel Michael, Who is like God?!, echoes down the ages of Man. If you are not armed, you are always wholly at the mercy of tyrants. Who can argue with such a truism? A lot of people, actually. For the phrase does not, in fact, echo down the ages of Man. It dates only to 1941, when this book, a now obscure science fiction classic, was first published—and the principle itself is not much older. So, rather than ...more
Mouldy Squid
Jul 01, 2012 Mouldy Squid rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of old-timey science fiction adventure
Shelves: science-fiction
A blast from the past, literally. The Weapon Shops of Isher is classic golden age adventure science fiction the likes of which is no longer seen today. Van Vogt fills the work with catchy prose, sly humour and understated profundity. Reduced to its most basic essence, The Weapon Shops… is a somewhat tongue in cheek libertarian critique masquerading as serious libertarian literature. While the philosophies on display are commonly read as totalitarianism versus personal freedom, the more complex s ...more
astaliegurec
Jun 07, 2014 astaliegurec rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A.E. van Vogt's "The Weapon Shops of Isher" is a 1951 book he formed from three of his 1940s era short stories. So, you have to keep several things in mind about it. First, since its source stories were initially published in the magazines of the time, the prose tends to be a bit terse and abrupt. There's no subtlety in what it's trying to get across or in how it does it. Second, since it's a story originating during the 1940s (The Golden Age of Science Fiction), it's old and the world has chang ...more
Dave
Oct 22, 2009 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
So, I read this because I remember enjoying the short story on which it is based (The Weapon Shop). This expanded version adds several additional plot lines that, while interesting and not unenjoyable, ultimately just make it take longer to get to the punchline at the end. Certainly not as egregious in that respect as, say, the Gamearth books, those pissed me off. I'm not sorry I read The Weapon Shops of Isher, I enjoyed it, and it's quite a slim volume. But next time I'll probably just read the ...more
Matt Parker
Feb 09, 2016 Matt Parker rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: surreal, sociological
Wish I had abandoned this one, but I kept waiting for it to turn around. The whole story is predicated on a series of inventions of incredible power that somehow haven't affected any other part of society. Guns with AI so sophisticated that they only fire in self-defense, but somehow there are still office buildings full of clerks? A machine that unerringly identifies morally upstanding people but the world government is run by a hereditary monarchy? It's entirely too ludicrous.
Florin Constantinescu
Should've learned my lesson and read the description carefully.
This is a fix-up novel.
Not that that's something necessarily bad in itself, just with this author, these things tend to turn out really bad.
For three days I struggled with it. The plot is impossible to follow, the setting very difficult to understand, the pages seem glued and difficult to turn.
Jim Kennedy
I liked this. Interesting, enjoyable. Though I found it a tad hard to follow at times and the science was a little far fetched. But overall, recommended. I'll have to see if he wrote any more about Isher.
Ray Schneider
Mar 12, 2017 Ray Schneider rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished rereading The Weapon Shops of Isher yesterday. It was written in the 1940s and published as a series of short stories in Astounding Science Fiction magazine edited by John W. Campbell. I've been a A.E. van Vogt fan since I was a teenager and a loyal Astounding then Analog reader even unto today. I'm currently rereading some of the books that I enjoyed when I was younger.

Revisiting Isher is fun. I'm thinking of rereading the null-A stories as well and maybe Slan. A lot of the old scien
...more
Roddy Williams
‘In the year 4784, the Universe is contained within the empire of Isher ruled by the Empress Innelda.

‘Dedicated to pleasure, Innelda’s dictatorship has driven Isher to the brink of cosmic disaster. For against her stand the impregnable Weapon Shops, their immortal leader Robert Hedrock and a man from the 20th century with terrifying power.’

Blurb from the 1974 New English Library paperback edition

Van Vogt had a definite talent for writing narratives which had that David Lynch quality of abstracte
...more
Pat Cummings
Dec 30, 2014 Pat Cummings rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Right to Buy Weapons

People always have the kind of government they want. When they want change, they must change it. —A.E. Van Vogt, The Weapon Shops of Isher


When I was a youngster, I saved the money I made mowing lawns, shoveling snow and babysitting the neighbor's kids for a very special purpose: I bought books. Paperback books, almost exclusively. I went to the drugstore downtown, which had a rack of novels just inside the front door, and I scanned the wire shelves searching for the priz
...more
Lysistrata
Big ideas and big philosophies: THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER provides a rich, if dated, reading experience from the heart of the Golden Age of Science Fiction. Even so, it is a difficult book to recommend.

Of the three stories interwoven into the novel's narrative, Fara Clark's story is easily the best. As father with unwavering government loyalty, his life is turned completely upside-down when an ominous "Weapon Shop" appears within his small town. His story is of disillusionment and discovery, an
...more
Simon
Oct 01, 2009 Simon rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
Another of his fix-up novels, like The Voyage of the Space Beagle although unlike that book, why the short stories were brought together and reworked into this novel is a mystery to me. There just seems to be two unrelated story lines spliced together in order to bulk out and produce a novel. In "The Voyage of the Space Beagle", the stories fitted together in sequence well in an episodic way. In this book they are essentially parallel narrative strands that are never brought together.

Still only
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Andrea Bampi
Premessa doverosa: questo romanzo in realtà è una raccolta di tre racconti che condividono la stessa storyline (in sequenza anche di edizione), ma sono stati scritti ad anni di distanza tra loro. In particolare, i primi due costituiscono grosso modo la prima metà del libro e risalgono ai primi anni '40; il terzo, il più corposo, è del '49. Inutile sottolineare che pochi decenni nella storia dell'umanità sono stati così ricchi di eventi fondamentali per la nostra civiltà come gli anni '40, nel be ...more
David Proffitt
Dec 31, 2016 David Proffitt rated it it was amazing
As a lifelong reader of science fiction I can’t believe that I have never read any A E Van Vogt until now. Regarded by many as one of the most influential science fiction writers of the mid twentieth century, he was still writing into the 1980s. The Weapon Shops of Isher was published in 1951, and with the exception of a few references to “atomic energy” typical of the era, it stands up pretty well.

Like most good science fiction, the technology and scientific projections are only a small part o
...more
Will
May 15, 2014 Will rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A classic from the Golden Age of SF. The society envisioned rests on an unusual concept...

"His idea was nothing less than that whatever government was in power should not be overthrown. But that an organization should be set up which would have one principal purpose: to insure that no government ever again obtained complete power over its people."

So we have the Weapon Shops, in their strange buildings none of the Empress' soldiers or policeman can enter, offering ultra high tech "smart" guns w
...more
Joey Brockert
I listened to this story a long time ago, but it ended in mid-sentence, so I had to find the actual book to find out the ending. This also means I am unclear on the story.
This is an old time science fiction story, with incredible scientific advances. These shops are programmed to refuse to entry to any establishment officer, like police or military, to protect the independence of the shops. The society of the shops is a royalty, very strict and ordered from the top down. The weapons shops are
...more
Sophie
The Weapon Shops of Isher est un roman de SF qui raconte l'histoire de Cayle Clark, un homme vivant dans les années 1950 qui fait la découverte d'un nouveau magasin, un Weapon Shop. Les Shops vendent des armes d'un pouvoir presque inimaginable, mais ne peuvent être utilisée que pour la légitime défense. En entrant dans le magasin, Clark se retrouve plusieurs millénaires dans le futur, où les weapon shops existent encore et s'opposent toujours au pouvoir en place, celui de l'empire Isher.

Le conc
...more
Bhakta Jim
A classic short story reworked into a less than classic novel. The wonderful S.F. anthology:

Famous Science-Fiction Stories: Adventures in Time and Space

had many Van Vogt short stories in it, and Van Vogt can be excellent in short stories. He is much less satisfactory as a novelist, in my opinion. His formula for novels is to introduce a new idea every so many pages, and while this is a great way to begin a novel sooner or later you have to do something with an idea besides introduce the next one
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Deathburst
Une lecture plutôt agréable,servie par une écriture rythmée et malgré un scénario assez terne à la lumière d’œuvres plus récentes (le bouquin a été écrit dans les années 1940-50).

Le postulat de base de l'univers est intéressant : un pouvoir étatique quasi-absolu contre-balancé par la possibilité individuelle de s'armer pour se rebeller. Si l'état abuse trop de son pouvoir, suffisamment d'individus se rebelleront pour le renverser, mais le pouvoir quasi-absolu permet plus de stabilité et de plani
...more
Mkfs
Aug 06, 2013 Mkfs rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What starts off as a Second Amendment thought experiment veers off into speculation on time travel and political corruption.

Thousands of years in the future, an empire declares war on an underground society that supplies defensive weaponry to honest individuals. The outcome is to be decided by two people: your standard Immortal With Advanced Technology, and a typical Chosen One who is out seeking his fortune.

Van Vogt is a clumsy wordsmith, making for a tedious (though occasionally amusing) read
...more
Gustl
Dec 04, 2014 Gustl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chi mi conosce sa che Van Vogt è in assoluto il mio autore preferito e che difficilmente riesco ad isolare l'entusiasmo che provo nel leggerlo dai miei commenti ai suoi fantasiosi testi, al punto, a volte, da farmi interrogare sull'obbiettività di questi ultimi. Questa edizione dell'Editrice Nord raccoglie i due romanzi del ciclo de Le Armi di Isher: The Weapon Shops of Isher e The Weapon Makers o Hedrock l'Immortale; ciclo tra i più celebrati dello scrittore canadese. Come spesso capita anche i ...more
Mark Hodder
Nov 02, 2016 Mark Hodder rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
I tend to think of A. E. Van Vogt as a sort of prototype Philip K. Dick. Unfortunately, he lacked that author’s control over his material, and had a tendency to send his plots off in tangental directions, tumbling out of control. At his worst, he couldn't even write a comprehensible sentence. Nevertheless, his work is always entertaining and, when he was at his best, it's often amazingly good. THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER is one of his finest novels. Yes, it’s altogether slower and more thoughtful ...more
Bruno Di Giandomenico
Well it is a Classic. Today probably it would not fare well, but it helped build the genre.
Hedrock the immortal founder of the Isher civilisation is the main character of this book and is much more present and active than inthe previuos book, the weapon makers.
As per the usual rule of Van Vogt, every chapter di Isher with a cliff hangar and sometimes Hedrock saves him self only because of a stroke of luck.
Fascinating character. Is the No Man, Goonish by name who anticipates the Mentats of Dune f
...more
Ietrio
Feb 11, 2015 Ietrio rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk
Oh boy! When I read this book for the first time I was about ten. And I do recall I liked all van Vogts. I don't think that was a latter suggestion as I have read quite a lot of his books.

Now some decades later I am in shock. Was I so stupid? This is a low quality fairy and unicorn tale. It's cheap. It's dated. The characters do not work well. And it is so machist! The highest purpose in the life of a woman is to be married. Men can have other purposes.

This is one of the most silly books I have
...more
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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
More about A.E. van Vogt...

Other Books in the Series

The Empire of Isher (3 books)
  • The Weapon Makers
  • The Empire of Isher: The Weapon Makers/The Weapon Shops of Isher

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“People always have the kind of government they want. When they want change, they must change it.” 2 likes
“When a people lose the courage to resist encroachment on their rights, then they can’t be saved by an outside force. Our belief is that people always have the kind of government they want and that individuals must bear the risks of freedom, even to the extent of giving their lives.” 2 likes
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