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Authors: A.E. van Vogt

Null-A Three

BOOK: Null-A Three

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“Your description of the enemy,” said Gosseyn, “suggests that for the first time ever men have met a superior life form. By which I mean . . .”

He stopped, incredulous. The floor was shaking.
Just ahead, a ceiling bell clanged. And then a man’s strident voice said urgently, “All personnel to stations. An enemy super-ship has just this minute entered our area of space!”

Inside his brain, a distant thought came, “I think you’ve done it. You thought of that other galaxy battle location, and I have an awful feeling something big happened—again.”

Gosseyn had no time for guilt. Because at that exact instant he felt an odd sensation in his head. Then . . . Good God! Something was trying to take control of his mind . . .

Copyright © 1985, by A.E. Van Vogt

All Rights Reserved.

Cover art by Tim Jacobus.

DAW Collectors' Book No. 634

First Printing, July 1985

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Null-A Three
A.E. van Vogt

To my dear wife, Lydia, an exceptionally beautiful woman, for asking me the questions that finally started me thinking about what a third Null-A novel should be about.

For Jacques Sadoul, editor of J’ai Lu, who several times urged me to write a sequel.

To Fred Pohl who, when he was editor of
Magazine, was the first person to ask me to write a Null-A sequel.

To the late John W. Campbell, Jr., who—as editor of
Astounding Science Fiction
(now called
)—when he serialized “The World of Null-A”, called it a “once-in-a-decade classic.”

For the late Jack Goodman, editor of Simon and Schuster, who printed a revised “World” in 1948—the first post-WWII science-fiction novel put out in hard cover by a major publisher.

For Raymond Healy, who recommended “World” to Jack Goodman.

For Don Wollheim who, printed the first paperback edition of “World” in 1953, and later printed “Players” under the title “The Pawns of Null-A.”

To Count Alfred Korzybski, the Polish born mathematician, who formulated the Concepts of General Semantics, on which the Null-A novels are based. Korzybski’s major work, “Science and Sanity,” was first published in 1933, with the sub-heading: “An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and to General Semantics.” The count died in 1950.

“Science and Sanity” is obtainable from the following:

Institute of General Semantics 3029 Eastern Avenue Baltimore, Maryland 21224

International Society for General Semantics Box 2469

San Francisco, Calif. 94126

(ISGS publishes a quarterly journal,
Et Cetera)


What does 10, 20, 30 or 40 years do to a reader’s recollection of a novel read during one of those distant times?

My first novel about General Semantics, “The World of Null-A”, was originally published in Astounding Stories (now called “Analog”) in 1945 as a three-part serial.

In those days, editors of magazines that published novels in serial form, either had a low opinion, or a correct opinion, of the ability of the majority of their readers to recall the early installments. And so, I, as author, was expected to provide a summary of the first part as a preliminary to Part Two, and summaries of both parts One and Two when Part Three was published a month later.

In what follows I have combined the “best” parts of these original magazine summaries of the first two installments and then added a summary of Part Three.

In the year 2560
, the semantic philosophy of Null-A dominated human existence. Annually, in the games of the Machine, hundreds of thousands of young men and women competed during the policeless month and tried to become “worthy of Venus”. The lesser winners were awarded all the good jobs on Earth. The top winners were sent to glorious Venus, there to become citizens in an all Null-A civilization.

Gilbert Gosseyn received his first shock on the eve of the first day of the Games. He was barred from the mutual protective group of the hotel in which he was staying—because a lie detector stated that he was not Gilbert Gosseyn. The hotel security forces promptly expelled him from his room.

Out in the night he rescues a young woman from marauders of the policeless period. He quickly suspects that she is not, as she has stated, a poor working girl, because she flashes a twenty-five thousand dollar bejewelled cigarette case. He begins to realize that he has become involved in some tremendous intrigue when he discovers she is Patricia Hardie, daughter of Michael Hardie, President of Earth.

The Games Machine also tells him, when he arrives for his first test, that he is not Gilbert Gosseyn. But it informs him that he will be allowed to compete under the name of Gilbert Gosseyn for fifteen days, by which time he must have discovered who he really is.

That night Gosseyn is kidnapped, and taken to the palace-home of President Hardie. He is interviewed by Hardie, by a cripple with a strong personality whose name is “X”, and by a sardonic giant named Thorson.

He learns that the President of Earth is involved in a plot to destroy Null-A, and seize control of the Solar System.

The three plotters become very excited when they discover something in a photograph of Gosseyn’s brain. And, when after being driven almost insane by torture, he succeeds in escaping from a steel-walled room, he is pursued and mowed down by machine gun bullets and flame guns. Thus death comes to Gilbert Gosseyn I.

Gosseyn awakens in a mountain hospital on Venus. He has the full memory of having been killed, and he realizes that somehow, someway, his personality has been preserved in another body that looks exactly like the first.

He swiftly discovers that he is illegally on Venus, and accordingly is subject to death, automatically. He overpowers John and Amelia Prescott, the doctors in charge of the hospital, half-convinces them of a plot to overthrow Null-A, and then sets out into the Venusian wilderness to escape the detectives they had previously called to arrest him.

Venus turns out to be a fantastic land with trees three thousand feet tall and hundreds of feet in diameter. It abounds with natural fruits and vegetables, and the climate is perpetually, marvellously mild. It is a land of dreams, the heaven of the Solar System.

On the sixteenth day a roboplane agent of the Games Machine rescues him, informs him that there is no chance of his escaping capture, and advises him to surrender to the pursuing detectives with a carefully prepared story. It tells him that fully half the detectives on Venus are agents of the gang, and that it is taking him to a forest of one of the reliable detectives.

At the last minute, as he is getting out of the roboplane, it explains that there is a factor in the affair about which it knows nothing, an alien factor. But that whatever evidence is available, he will find it here.

Gosseyn finds the tree house furnished but unoccupied. He discovers a curious tunnel at the back of the apartment. The tunnel leads into the depths of the tree, and, after some strange dreams about beings and ships that have come from remote interstellar space, he decides reluctantly to explore the tunnel.

But it turns out to be very long, intertwining through the roots of the colossal trees, so he returns to the tree house for food. He is captured and taken back to earth.

There he sees the body of Gosseyn I, and realizes that he
in a second duplicate body. He is invited to join the gang, and he has just refused when John Prescott, the Venusian, kills President Hardie and “X” and drugs the other men in the room.

Gosseyn and Prescott escape, and Gosseyn seeks out a psychologist to find out what it is in his brain that has made him the center of an intrigue, which actually held up the gang’s plan to invade Venus.

The psychologist, Dr. Kair, examines his extra-brain, and for the first time he learns the difficulties that stand in the way of training that part of his mind. In the midst of the investigation, they discover that Prescott is really an agent of the inner group of the gang; and that he killed Hardie and “X” with the double purpose of convincing Gosseyn of his bona fides, and of using the hunt for the assassins as a means of using Earth against the Games Machine and Venus.

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