The Beast by AE Van Vogt (book review).

The indicia to ‘The Beast’ by AE Van Vogt indicates this is the second issue, the first in 1964, although there is no indication whether that was an earlier paperback or the hardback release. It got reprinted under the title 1969 ‘Moonbeast’ although looking at its page count another 20 pages added. I suspect the original title was seen as being too generic or caught into the horror genre.

Van Vogt set the story in 1972, a seemingly long time from when he wrote it. Jim Pendrake is getting his life back together after losing his arm in a aeroplane accident being a test pilot. His arm then begins to grow back and the people who capture him reveal he has toti-potent cells, allowing himself to regenerate.

He’s also advised to read a lot to ensure he remembers things as this regeneration is likely to reset his brain as well and that would keep his memories intact. Oh, the Beast of the title appears to be a neanderthal called Big Oaf, who has a similar ability. As you get further into the book, the beast turns out to be some sort of sabre-tooth tiger, so don’t take anything for granted that anything is the same. A beast is a beast, although neither has much significance to the plot.

Van Vogt has said that he tends to write story sections in 800 word amounts and this novel is the first time that I’ve actually spotted him doing this, simply because he changed the scenarios a few times with Pendrake being taken to the Moon, escaping back to Earth and then returning to sort out problems here that will have a bearing on a German task force residing on the Moon that is preparing for an uprising. Any more and its getting spoiler, although it does look like he’s exploring every scenario before moving on.

You have to love Pendrake’s wife name of Anrella. The plot does get a little convoluted as different elements are thrown at Pendrake. Although he’s not the standard kind of super-human I’ve seen Van Vogt play with in the past, he does rely on smart moves than more aggressive techniques to win.

Crossing referencing, I’ve now noted as few other Van Vogt books that I appear to have missed from the early 1960s, so don’t be surprised if I don’t cover them in the next month or so.

GF Willmetts

May 2022

(pub: MacFadden-Bartell Books, 1968. 160 page paper back. Price: around £ 6.00 (UK). ISBN: 520-00343-060)

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