Friday, February 3, 2012

Le Livre d'Or de la science-fiction: A.E. Van Vogt

Normally I’m pretty proud of my self-taught ability read French, but the first story (Le fantôme) in this collection of works by A.E. Van Vogt (an author I’ve never read before) made me feel as though I might as well have been reading Greek. I had absolutely no idea what the heck was happening in the story and I dreaded having to slog through the rest of the book. Fortunately, for whatever reason, subsequent stories made more sense to me, even if they still presented far more of a challenge than, say, reading Harry Potter in French. I think the one I enjoyed the most was Le premier Rull, which is a prequel of sorts to a series of Van Vogt novels--it sets up a good sense of dread at how deeply and easily Earth has been infiltrated by aliens they don’t even know exist. The other stories didn’t do much for me, but again that may be partially caused by my partial inability to figure out what was happening. I did enjoy a short essay by Van Vogt included at the end of the book, in which he reveals his iron-clad rule of how to write good SF: every scene should be about 800 words and reveal something important about the story.

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