Masters Of Time by A.E. Van Vogt (book review).

May 29, 2022 | By | Reply More

The one thing about getting SF books from the 1970s is they had some fabulous covers to make you give them a second look on both sides of the pond. This edition came from the USA originally but, apart from a little age/shelf wear on the cover, is practically new inside. If you are after shorter reads for those little things called holidays, it might be worth looking up some of these books.

I originally started ‘Masters Of Time’ thinking I would spread it over 2 mornings but instead ended up reading it in 40 minutes. I’m a practiced reader, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Van Vogt, according to the indicia, wrote the original story in 1942 and 1944. Considering the two main characters paths only cross a couple times, this is probably a ‘mash-up’, a name Van himself called combining two or more stories into a novel.

Norma Matheson is hired by Dr. Lell to front a recruitment agency looking for male volunteers. When they enter his office for a medical check and approved, they apparently leave through a back door, except they just vanish. Something Norma glimpses. She writes to her friend, Professor Jack Garson, about it but Lell suddenly knows and she finds herself rapidly aged out on the streets. Returning, Lell not only restores her to the right age but then down another ten years so she looks twenty-two. A promised award to keep her younger years if she behaves.

When the curious Garson comes to the city, Lell grabs and sends him to the future, where there is a war going on between the planets and why he’s been recruiting his army. Although Lell tells Norma that Garson will have his memory wiped, this isn’t true. Garson finds himself coming to terms with a war spread over several star systems and finds Lell is just a recruiter. Back in time, Norma finds herself changing as well. Any more is spoiler, although it does show how a time travel point can sort things out.

I should point out that Norma Matheson describes Dr. Lell on first meeting him as ‘Negro’ before noticing he also had oriental features. The clues for the reader is that Lell is of mixed race. Back in the 1940s and early 1970s, this was still seen as a colour descriptive than any racial slur. Considering the initial story setting is 1943, it does match the time period.

As I commented at the beginning, this is practically a fast read and page-turner. Van Vogt’s habit of displaying a situation and then quickly moving on does make you keep reading. In some respects, its like having a fast meal and you’re left wondering how fast it got to the end. In many respects, this story is really about getting the players on the board and how their presence will sort out reality.

GF Willmetts

May 2022

(pub: Manor Books, 1975. 128 page paperback. Price: I pulled my copy for £10.00 (UK). ISBN: 532-954-17-095)

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Category: Books, Scifi


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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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