A.E. van Vogt – Future Glitter

When it comes to science fiction I much enjoy the old style novels when science fiction was far from mainstream and the ideas and creativity of the writers knew few bounds. Since the hi-tech age was introduced in the 80ies and science fiction gained mainstream popularity the stories changed and I haven’t really seen the old kind ever again, although I have to admitĀ  I am not that an avid SF reader.

One of those old style SF novels is Future Glitter (1973) by A.E. van Vogt. It is a lesser known work by this pioneer of modern SF. I actually haven’t read that much by him although his Null-A and the ‘Clane’ books are among my all time favourites. I had this book on my shelves for quite some time.

Future Glitter is basically founded on one specific idea which for its implementation required a second idea. This second idea I can disclose as it is about the setting of the novel. Future Glitter is a dystopian novel in the likes of 1984 and Brave New World. The main difference with those novels is that these are centred on the idea of the dystopian world and that their stories are about depiction the reality and the conflict it causes. In Future Glitter Van Vogt presents a differently set up dystopian world, introducing some new interesting concepts in its formation. As I have read a fair number of dystopian novel they all seems to share a number of similar traits which makes me wonder if it is the only way one can imagine it.

Despite all this the dystopian plot is the vehicle for the central idea of the novel. Van Vogt uses it to great effect and he fuses it deeply inside the dystopian plot. Much that happens depends on this central idea and everything that happens is in fact a battle between the central idea and the dystopian system. From the beginning they start the fight which even continues when either of them is temporary sidelined. Common to Van Vogt’s style are the numerous plot twists. Van Vogt keeps up a very fast pace, leaving the reader barely any time to think or consider the events. It is impossible to predict what is going to happen in the next scene and that makes the read pretty much a roller coaster ride. The danger with such plot developments is that the author gets tangled up with all that is going on. Van Vogt manages to stay clear for the majority of the events. Nevertheless there remain a number of events which remain rather unexplained and Van Vogt sometimes needs to steer his plot forcibly in the right direction.

Future Glitter is a fun read. He presents a fairly large case of characters and manages to present them quite well despite the limited time he has. There are two main protagonists. The first we start the story with and to me he was the most interesting one. Van Vogt uses the limited time extremely well to give him great depth. The second is a much younger character. He is put through much of turmoil, showing some amusing styles that provide some comic scenes. I did not particularly connect with him but for the plot he provided an unusual frame of mind.

Like many of the old style SF novels Future Glitter is based on a few concepts which are exploited with great effect to provide the reader with an exciting and fast story that does not lack in some comic moments. In this way it is different from the usual dystopian novel which usually has a serious approach or a creepy atmosphere. There is little of that here. Van Vogt holds up a certain distance as he does not want to depress the reader but entertain him and he succeeds at that, although the novel is far from perfect. Despite it being a dystopian novel it does not aim bring the powerful message that others have tried to convey. Nevertheless there are many realistic observations towards the dystopian society and even some anti-criticism. So there is more than meets the eye.

 

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