Mission to The Stars (vt The Mixed Men) – AE van Vogt (1952)
‘In the far distant future the spaceship Star Cluster is searching for certain inhabited planets lost somewhere in the teeming wilderness of outer space. The inhabitants of these planets know the ship is searching for them but they refuse to reveal their location.
Why don’t these people want to be found?
What is their secret?
Discover the astounding answers as you read this gripping classic tale of interstellar adventure by AE van Vogt, one of the all time great names in adventurous science fiction.’
Blurb from the 1997 Sphere edition.
Another fix-up novel from van Vogt comprising of ‘Concealment’, ‘The Storm’ and ‘The Mixed Men’, published in Astounding between 1943 and 1945 and telling the tale of adapted ‘Dellian’ humans who left human civilisation fifteen thousand years before and settled (unbeknown to Earth) in the Greater Magellanic cloud.
Now, an Earth warship has stumbled upon one of the weather stations which monitors the interstellar storms which rage in the depths of the cloud. The ship’s captain is determined to bring the Fifty Suns under Earth control. However the Fifty Suns are scattered amongst the fifty million stars of the cloud and Lady Gloria Laurr, Grand Captain of the ‘Star Cluster’ is determined to find them.
The Cloud was settled by Dellians and Non-Dellians, but what Captain Laurr does not know is that a mating of Dellian and Non-Dellians has produced a third group, the Mixed Men, more powerful and intelligent than either of its parents and possessed of the power to control human minds.
The Mixed Men have developed their own culture and civilisation, but their nominal and hereditary leader is Maltby, brought up – after being captured as a child – in the Dellian/Non-Dellian society and now forced to lie to both communities in order to save his civilisation and his race.
There are echoes of ‘Slan’ in this although it lacks the rich texture and background. Like the Slans, the Mixed Men once attempted a coup in order to take over the reins of power, but failed.
We have humans, Dellians and Mixed men, compared to the humans, Slans and tendrilless Slans.
The Mixed men, like Slans, have hidden within human society.
One has to question whether van Vogt is consciously repeating a successful or familiar formula or exploring a variation on the same theme. What seems to interest van Vogt most is the rational scientist/leader whose intellect brings change to political systems without the use of violence. This does not however, preclude the ‘‘control’’ and manipulation of others which we might see today as a subtler form of violence. Maltby, at one point, takes mental control of Grand Captain Gloria and forces her to kiss him, which perhaps says more about the society of the Nineteen Forties when this was written than about van Vogt’s super-being.
Like Gilbert Gosseyn in ‘The World of Null-A’, Maltby has two brains, one of which is mostly dormant but can be brought into service to produce an IQ of 900 or more.
There are some interesting ‘nodes of consequence’ in this book such as the Fifty Suns deciding to attack just as the ‘Star Cluster’ was about to leave the galaxy for good. Later, if the chairman of the Kaider III government hadn’t mistrusted Maltby so much he would have told him that a supernova had now become an equation in the storm into which Maltby had sent the ‘Star Cluster’ in order to destroy it. Had he known he would have been forced to confess and would not have been shipwrecked on S Doradus. For van Vogt this is interesting and shows a more structured approach than some of his stream-of-consciousness pieces.