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Not a Review of: Slan by A.E. Van Vogt

It MIGHT be racist. Not quite sure.

Slan tells the story of Übermensch Jommy Cross and his journey to achieve world peace through the cunning use of demonstrating superior genetics and the application of stealing free will. It’s cool, though. Jommy only takes free will from people who would have wasted free will anyway. Obviously, that should be the responsibility of Jommy Cross.

So, Jommy regularly reckons how fast he can bring the entire human race under the force of his will. He’s frustrated that, at fifteen minutes per person, it’d take him two million years. This leads to the obvious solution of recruiting other genetically superior Übermensch slans to his cause. That way he can speed up his efforts.

Honestly, I saw no problem with it.

That is one of several threads tearing along with no concern for your intelligence riding this not actually very long novel from the beginning to its headache-inducing end. Other threads pulling Jommy along are…

  • The unsubtle revelation that Jommy himself has been driven by subliminal mind control.

  • Authoritarian conspiracy is cool, no matter how destructive it is, so long as the shadowy figures are “morally superior.”

  • The only qualification for moral superiority is interpersonal nonviolence. If you personally don’t kill anyone, it doesn’t really matter about the organizations you run.

This book is a product of its times. Or I think it must be. It came out in 1940, when themes of arguments about people with power controlling people without was right up in your face, in a big way. The idea of making decisions about people for their genetics was much in the news in the 1940s. Maybe you noticed that. In the context of its times, Slan makes you think a thing or two.

I’m glad I read it. You can see a lot of the influences it had on stories that came after it. Sort of almost reads like one of those “Superman has gone bad” stories.

So, should you read it?

Eh. Just be prepared for a piece of science fiction that reads like what it is: pulp fiction from the 1940s.

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