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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

The Undercover Aliens

Copyright 1950 by A. E. Van Vogt

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SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Awful (1/5)

I first read this in 1973 and most recently on the 2nd November 2010

Originally published as "The House On The Hill".

Allison Stevens was once a marine but is now a lawyer in the small town of Alimante. He is caught up in a shadowy conspiracy that involves his client, Arthur Tannahill, owner of the ancient house that stands upon a hill in Alimante. Tannahill is also a very rich man, owner of much of California.

Allison uncovers a brutal society of Incan or possibly Mayan cultists. Not just that, but these Mayans (or Incans) turn out to have needle guns, spaceships and immortality. They also have a remarkably beautiful lady, Mistra, with whom our manly hero is immediately infatuated.

There's a whole planet in the balance and somehow the risk of atomic war must be averted.

Our Allison leaps bravely into battle, one man against massive odds. He's going for gold: for immortality and of course, for the girl.

Of course, he does have the support of an alien intelligence in this endeavour. I find that often helps.

First off, it's not "The Weaponshops Of Isher". It's not that good. However it has a rather dated charm and for the technophiles amongst us, it stirs a nostaglia early in the novel as our hero receives an overnight telex.

What I always found odd about Van Vogt is his depiction of his characters emotions. Sometimes it's brilliantly on the button, but most of the time I'm lost at how he assumes someone would feel such a way at such a time. Where I would expect "angry at being hit over the head and shocked at the surprise attack", Van Vogt would certainly write "shocked at being hit over the head and angry at the surprise attack", not perhaps a big difference, but enough to jar (and of course that's why he is sometimes so intriguing).

Loaded on the 23rd March 2011.
Cover of The Undercover Aliens