Saturday, December 13, 2014

Book Review: Computerworld

Book Review: 'Computerworld' by A. E. Van Vogt

0 / 5 Stars

“Computerworld’ (203) is DAW Book No. 554, published in November, 1983; the cover artwork is by Michael Whelan. DAW also released the book with the alternate title ‘Computer Eye.’

This is one of the worst sf book’s I’ve ever read. I certainly wasn’t expecting a remarkable novel from Van Vogt….. but even by his considerably relaxed standards, this novel is truly dire.

I didn’t get past page 30 with ‘Computerworld’, and I have come to mourn the time I wasted to reading those first 30 pages. 

[For a review based on the reading of the entire book, readers are referred to the M. Porcius Fiction Blog.]

Apparently, in the early 80s, Van Vogt decided to learn all he could about computer technologies and operating systems, and decided to write a novel using the computer as the narrator….. a second-person narrator, at that. 

Van Vogt calculated that working an entire vocabulary of computing terms and jargon into his prose would give his novel a degree of authenticity that, presumably, would startle and astonish those legions of sf readers who refused to acknowledge his unique genius........

Thus, the entire novel is thus one long exercise in deciphering a stilted prose style designed to mimic the computational processes of a very advanced computer. It’s like reading really, really bad fanfic 
....with the inflection of a metallic monotone....about a super - computer in control of the USA.

Here are some selected excerpts:

I replied in the male voice I used when speaking to men. “Each human being" – those were my words- "now numbering in America one hundred and seventy-eight million, four hundred and thirty-three thousand, nine hundred and eleven individuals – as of a cut –off moment when you finished asking your question, has a distinctive bio-magnetic configuration, each different from all others in thousands of ways. As you know, my previous recognition of a human man, woman, or child depended on my comparing his physiognomy with earlier models of him in my memory banks, and of comparing his voice in a similar fashion. I still do this, but it is an automatic process not really necessary any more to recognition. That now requires only the golden profile.”

The Pren-Boddy vehicle is proceeding along the Main Street of Mardley, heading south. I drive the S. A. V. E. (#) to the nearest intersection, and the other three available S. A. V. E.s to the three next intersections. In each instance, I wait on the side street. My plan is to fire at, or ram, the rebel machine from successive side streets.

His voice pauses. Because even as he is speaking, David’s attention is distracted toward a large dog that, at that moment, comes to the foot of the stage steps. The animal, a brown (shade 8) mixed breed, puts its fore paws on the lower of the two steps.

At once, David’s body begins to shimmer. Swiftly, it takes on a dog shape. The transformation is so rapid that by the time Glay tate grabs at the changing-shape-thing, what he grabs is 9/10ths brown, fuzzy-haired dog-duplicate.

But he grabs hard. And he holds the David-animal body firmly. As he continues grasping it, the dog changes back into boy. Into David Norton. In my line of vision, 38 people have stood up in a manner known as jumping to their feet. And there is a sound. What I, by comparison, would call a collective moan. The sound comes from all over the tent. I count 241 moans, most of them from people I cannot see.

Even the most ardent of those wretched souls who continue to insist that Van Vogt was an unfairly maligned genius of sf, are going to have difficulty endorsing this book……

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