BOOK REVIEW: The Gryb, by A.E. van Vogt

  • A collection of six stories
  • Published by New English Library in 1976
  • 172 pages

This is going to be a shorter review than usual, and there are two reasons for that. the first is page count. with six stories crammed into under two hundred pages, it’s hard to talk about The Gryb without just telling you what happens. And if you want to know what happens in a book, the best way to do that is to read the book for yourself. The second reason is a little more complicated. I’ve written one star reviews before, generally by talking around the book rather than about the book. Long, meandering introductions are very useful for this. But the simple fact of the matter is that I can’t find anything about The Gryb to recommend it. It’s just a terrible book.

Look. The Golden Age (or whatever we’re calling it these days) was packed with authors. Some, Asimov for example, have remained household names. Others, like Kuttner and Moore, have unjustly been forgotten. Thanks to projects like the SF Gateway and Gollancz Masterworks series, a lot of these names are finally getting some of the recognition they rightly deserve. But A.E. van Vogt is one name that don’t think will have a renaissance.

His novels fare a little better than his shorts. Empire of the Atom is a phenomenally insane novel. With spaceships loosing arrows at alien warlords and mutants seizing the throne, they’re a mishmash of ideas that boggles the mind even as it entertains. Van Vogt wrote pulp in every sense of the word. But what makes these works as fun as they are is the novelty of them. I’ve now read four of his novels, and this is my third anthology. It’s been a game of diminishing returns, and by now the novelty has all but drained away.

The stories here are not very good. At all. Sometimes they’re barely coherent. There are an astounding number of ideas thrown into them, but with seemingly little effort made to tie any of it together into something resembling a narrative. Opening story The Gryb is the best of the lot, but that’s damning with faint praise. It’s not going to be on any favourite lists, but it is at least not as rambling as the others. Van Vogt has a co-writer for two of these shorts, and I couldn’t even tell. His unique style drowns out any other contribution. I’m going to stop this review now, because I don’t have anything more to say. Suffice to say, if van Vogt is an acquired taste, he’s one I lost some time ago.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you may also like:
Northwest of Earth, by C.L. Moore
Nine by Laumer, by Keith Laumer
Empire of the Atom, by A.E. van Vogt

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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