Publisher: New English Library
Series: Empire of the Atom (#2)
Publication Date: 1950
Usually when reviewing book 2 in a series, I include a spoiler warning for the first book. Not today. Not for this. Because even if you have read Empire of the Atom, none of it matters. You’ll be just as confused as I am, if not more so. Because nothing makes any sense. Things happen, characters die, adventures are had. And then, at the end, you just ask yourself: What did I just read?
Seriously. What is this book? To recap, at the end of the previous installment, the mutant Clane created a magic sphere that contained a universe, with which he could kill and/or destroy anything he wanted to. At this point he realised that his world, a far-future Earth, was under threat of alien invasion. The Wizard of Linn deals with his efforts to repel said invasion. At least I think it does. Honestly, I gave up on trying to make out any coherent plot within the first hundred pages.
If Empire of the Atom was the product of an insomniac on cocaine, then Wizard of Linn is where he starts crashing. It’s thrilling and horrifying to watch, and you find yourself utterly perplexed yet unable to look away. I could not give you any reasoning behind anything that happened, save perhaps for a vague ‘why not?’ This is not so much a novel as a jumble of ideas competing for space in a paperback. While some of those ideas are great, the execution is anything but.
Van Vogt, allegedly, wrote in 800 word bursts, often recording his dreams for use in his novels, and I can see that. I really can. Because if this is not the product of a feverish mind, it was certainly created by a maniac. The plot skips around, dancing between genres and tropes at random. The aliens are genuinely alien, but the humans are equally inscrutable. Not once during my read did I feel like I was looking at coherent characters. The whole book has the air of an overheard conversation in a pub, with a variety of increasingly-drunk storytellers.
Is this a good book? Absolutely not. Yet I’ve given it 4 out of 5. Why? Well, because it’s so absurdly bonkers I genuinely had fun reading it. It’s like Fast and Furious in paper form. It doesn’t make sense. It goes on for far too long. It leaves me feeling stupid for having enjoyed it. But I did enjoy it. Even if I hate myself for doing so.
This isn’t a book you should rush out and buy. But if you’re on a bus stop bench and you see a copy lying beside you, pick it up. It will give you a laugh if nothing else.