The Man With A Thousand Names by AE Van Vogt (book review).

‘The Man With A Thousand Names’ comes from AE Van Vogt’s second phase of writing in the 1970s. Actually, it feels more like two or three names really but you have to treat this story as part detective as Van Vogt lays in the clues as to what is going on and why.

Spoilt rich kid Steven Masters wrangles passage on the first trip to a nearby star’s habitable planet, Mittend, meets the local inhabitants and then finds his personality back on Earth inhabiting the body of Mark Brochun and having to convince people, especially his father, who he is. Initially sceptic, his knowledge shows otherwise.

Masters goes back to Mittend with another team who captures one of the female aliens. Van Vogt affirms Masters is not a nice person as he rapes the alien who in turn demonstrates the body swap, kills the rest of the team and sends Masters mind, care of the mother mind, into another body, previous owner and married Daniel Utgers. Masters masquerades as Utgers for a couple days but when he contacts his father from the apartment reserved for him, he is attacked by the staff, not under the orders of his father but indicating the other players, the Gi-Ints, are after him. Without going too spoiler, the Gi-Ints had previous invaded Mittend and ran into a similar complication and want revenge.

An important detail is the people whose bodies he inhabits are those he shafted and when his father’s people make the connection, there are attempts to pay them off, with varying degrees of success in an attempt to prevent him appearing in any of their bodies. Well, for the rest, you’ll have to have a read for yourself.

As commented in recent reviews of some of Van Vogt’s books, his habit of writing in 800 word sections is more apparent once you know what you’re looking for. Here, the jumps between events did tend to make me wonder if I missed something but its more like Van Vogt was being economic with words. With Masters himself, you know he’s spoilt but only mid-way through the book just how much. Bearing in mind the release date of the book in 1974, Van Vogt might well have been curbing how much he could say with a view to different age groups. I suspect a second read might find different layers and, had it been written today, we would up the ante for Masters’ nastiness and maybe redemption.

‘Mother – switch me!’

GF Willmetts

August 2022

(pub: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1974. 141 page paperback. Price; ISBN: 0-283-98229-2)


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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