In this far-future novel, based on five related stories, humanity has been fighting a century-long war against the shape-changing Rull, and things are not going well.

Carson's World is a vital part of Earth's defense. It is inabited by large, blue creatures, with teeht and claws, called ezwals. Trevor Jamieson is the only human who knows that the ezwal are highly intelligent and telepathic. It's best for everyone, human and ezwal, if no one else knows this. The ezwal want all humans off their planet, so there is plenty of hatred, mistrust and dead bodies on both sides. For humanity, the only criterion to determine a civilization's intelligence is whether or not they will assist in defense against the Rull.

A lifeboat crashes on a very hostile jungle planet, carrying Jamieson and an adult ezwal. It's the sort of place where all sorts of disgusting and carnivorous creatures come out at night, and Jamieson's blaster is almost depleted. The ezwal would like nothing more than to tear Jamieson into lots of little pieces, but they end up having to work together to get off the planet.

A ship crash-lands in Alaska, carrying an adult and baby ezwal. The mother is murdered by a human in revenge for the carnage on Carson's World. The baby survives, and is hunted by humans all over the Alaskan landscape. It is rescued by Jamieson, and is willing to tone down its conditioned hatred of humans.

A Rull survey ship, and Jamieson, who seems to have nine lives, crash land near each other on a desolate mountain. Neither ship is going anywhere, so Jamieson uses this once-in-a-lifetime chance to conduct some psychological experiments on a captive Rull, to see what makes them tick.

This is a fine piece of space opera from science fiction's early days. It's got intelligence, weird alien planets, and lots of good writing. Nearly anything by van Vogt is recommended, and this is no exception.

Recent actions