“The Universe Maker” by A. E. Van Vogt
review © 1992 by Doug Reeder
I was prompted to read this novel by Van Vogt’s name and the cover art of the Carrol & Graf edition: a woman in a blue jumpsuit with several technological gadgets. In retrospect, my advice is to look at the cover but don’t bother to read the book.
I am annoyed by time travel stories where the characters decide they must act to make events happen the way they did. In this story, not only does the main character do this, but it turns out it is impossible for the universe to exist unless he does. The story is full of flat statements that the physical universe has morality built in (which could, if you were being very generous, be interpreted as the opinions of the viewpoint character and not the narrator’s.)
The fifties attitudes towards women are obnoxious (the original copyright is 1953.) The attitudes of the characters from the future toward sex appears much more modern, though Captain Cargill has a soldier’s attitude that all women are at least potentially available and you have to press hard to find out (what we now call sexual harassment). “You must try to win Miss Reese to your point of view. Grannis tells us the best method would be for you to make love to her-”
The book suffers from Cargill being the only character. The other people aren’t really characters, just part of the scenery that Cargill wanders through. The plot has Cargill’s importance being inherent in the structure of the universe, and although he is an army officer, he is able to tell the naive people how to organize their air force, and how to take over the government. Apparently, in the future, they don’t study history.
The technology of the future is based on “million tubes.” The people of the future have discovered that you can make “one times one times one times one times zero equals a million”.
It is very rare that I can force myself to stop reading a book before I get to the end. The problem is not the writing, but the storyline and the theme. I found myself just gliding along, not worrying about the absurd (and dogmatic) statements piling up. Unless you’re doing an essay on Van Vogt’s work, don’t bother to read this book.
%A Van Vogt, A. E. %T The Universe Maker %P 192 pp %I Carrol & Graf %C New York %D 1992 (Copyright 1953,1981) %G ISBN 0-88184-841-7 %O paperback, US$3.95 %O Not worth reading