Kurt Reichenbaugh's Reviews > Empire of the Atom

Empire of the Atom by A.E. van Vogt
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May 16, 11

bookshelves: hairy-eyeball, pulp, sci-fi
Read in May, 2011

First thing, I absolutely love old-school pulp Sci-Fi. Sometimes cynical, sometimes optimistic, frequently trite and juvenile; It almost always had a sense of wonder that was contageous. For me, that mostly went missing somewhere back in the sci-fi of the 70's and after. Probably around the time the sci-fi section in Walden's got invaded by elves, dragons and wizards...

As for Van Vogt; I once read in an essay by Isaac Asimov that Van Vogt "lost" many productive writing years to promoting Dianetics in California. Perhaps Asimov was refering to this period in which Empire of the Atom was produced. Pieced together from a series of stories published in the late 40's and early 50's this novel is clumsy and stiff. Narrative summary often substitutes for the vimm and vigor Van Vogt built his rep on.

The story of the mutant Clane, and his rise within the Linn dynasty somewhere around 14,000 AD, long after an atomic war decimated the earth's population, this novel is surprisingly removed and dull. It was, all-in-all, sort of a let-down.

That said, there were still a few sparks here and there of the old magic. For example, when Clane descends into an ancient atomic pit on the surface of Venus, or when frozen cadavers of an alien warrior race are discovered on the moons of Jupiter. Moments that still make an old fan like me smile and turn the page to see what happens next. Maybe next time.
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