Another of his fix-up novels, like The Voyage of the Space Beagle although unlike that book, why the short stories were brought together and reworked into this novel is a mystery to me. There just seems to be two unrelated story lines spliced together in order to bulk out and produce a novel. In "The Voyage of the Space Beagle", the stories fitted together in sequence well in an episodic way. In this book they are essentially parallel narrative strands that are never brought together.
Still only a short novel, the plot lurches from scene to scene, the characters are picked up and dropped haphazardly along the way giving the reader little chance to engage with them in any way. Infact, the most important character of the story, the one whom you end up feeling the book is really about (and who I understand the sequel is about) is only really introduced quite late in the story.
As usual, A.E. Van Vogt has many interesting ideas, such as a future uptopian/dystopian society in which a tyrannical regime is held in check by an independent organisation of weapon shops that are intent on supplying the populace with weapons (that can only be used defensively) and an alternative justice system (for those failed by the regime's justice). The problem though is the kinds of technology that Van Vogt envisages to exist in order to sustain this idealistic social setup are quite far fetched to say the least. Drawn from pure fantasy in order to do the job he needs it to do. And then we have the crackpot idea that comes from the story "The Seesaw" which just sounds like pure nonsense although the solution to the problem it poses throughout the book is quite interesting.
I haven't read the short stories on which this novel is based but I get the feeling that I would have preferred reading them to the novel. Infact, that is precisely what I want to do next with this author, find a short story collection. A form in which this author will undoubtedly excel.