Book Review:

Slan Hunter
by Kevin J. Anderson

This review is completely free of plot spoilers.

For another perspective on this novel,
see Isaac's review.

Guest reviewer:
Mark McSherry

It is tempting to think that van Vogt was contemplating a possible sequel to Slan in the early 50's when he revised Slan for Simon and Shuster.

Slan Hunter by Kevin J. Anderson, cover by Bruce Jensen

cover art © Bruce Jensen

In the first two versions of Slan (the 1940 ASF serialization and the 1946 Arkham House hardcover) van Vogt has Keir Gray describe to John Thomas Cross, in the concluding pages, how the true slans will ward off the impending tendrilless invasion from Mars. Van Vogt decided to drop the explanation in the S&S version. So this issue remains unresolved and may explain why many current-day reviews of Slan complain about its rather abrupt ending.

This brings us to Slan Hunter (2007), a sequel by Kevin J Anderson and Lydia van Vogt. I'm going to suggest that one read Slan Hunter before rereading Slan. I did the opposite, reading the 1953 Dell paperback (#696) prior to tackling Slan Hunter. And that was a mistake.

Slan Hunter is not a direct sequel to Slan. While Slan Hunter includes the cast of Slan, and the story begins only hours after the ending of Slan, events take place in a different universe— a parallel universe several 'clicks' removed from that imagined by A. E. van Vogt; where the technologies, time-lines, and explanations given in Slan Hunter are, at times, glaringly out of synch with those of Slan. Perhaps one could best describe the sequel as taking place in a re-imagining of the Slan universe.

Slan Hunter consists of 43 chapters, totaling around 73,000 words— about the same length as Slan. Every short chapter takes on a different viewpoint until the concluding chapters, where the constant hurtling on-rush of events finally brings all the characters together. This aspect of Slan Hunter certainly mirrors the writings of van Vogt— the story 'moves'.

Kevin J Anderson's approach to Slan Hunter is that of K. J. Anderson, the name he uses for his movie tie-in novels. Descriptions are sparse, the text is always pushing the action forward. There is little wordage spent on character introspection or setting mood; it's go, go, go! A cynic might suggest this is done, in part, to cover certain lapses in plot (and character) logic. Though I didn't take notes, all the events of Slan Hunter take place in only a matter of days, probably no more than one week.

Attempts at humor by the author throughout the text, and there are TOO many, often are just god-awful. Though Granny does have a few funny lines when first introduced to the reader, her later slap-stick with John Petty still makes me wince...

And yet, despite the above reservations concerning Slan Hunter, there is a moment two thirds of the way through that almost overcomes all the earlier deficiencies. And while the story-telling soon slipped back to its faltering ways, that startling event provided this reader with all the incentive he needed to finish the book.

Again, if you intend to read Slan Hunter, do so before re-reading Slan. Slan Hunter will go down much, much easier that way. Then take up Slan and, heightened even more by the contrast with Slan Hunter, revel in the sweet pulp music of the ASTOUNDING A. E. van Vogt!