Author: A. E. Van Vogt
Website: Amazon Page
I have not picked up a science fiction novel in a while, so The Silkie, with its 1969 used-book and yellow-paged feel was a perfect choice. Van Vogt is perhaps best known for Slan: a wonderful classic of the 1940s focusing on racism, genetic mutations, and mob mentality. Similarly, The Silkie explores the relations between humans and a shape-changing race (or alien form of life), whose origins underlie much of the tension between the two societal groups. But even though its message is purposeful, Van Vogt superbly applies his message to the more fun (and sometimes pointless) fighting sequences in The Silkie which occur with stupendous regularity.
What differentiates Van Vogt from similar science fiction mainstays like Heinlein is how Van Vogt manages to make the plot and not his characters the anchor of his story. Although not necessarily a good thing, the reader is drawn to the broader story about the silkies and the humans as well as the tale of a government which brings them together. Van Vogt’s main character becomes, without a wink or a nudge, the most powerful being in the universe; but the reader does not care because he is more interested in reflecting on The Most Powerful Being in the Universe’s interaction with aliens who are almost as powerful as he is and who happen to create and collapse galaxies by manipulating the molecular structure of the things around them. The Silkie, in the span of 250 pages, takes a simple character and deifies him, but I kept rooting for him because the deification is done with such elegance as our favorite alien (or human) wanders through the universe destroying things.