Supermind – AE van Vogt (1977)
‘EARTH WAS IN DANGER,
its population threatened by the nomadic space-travellers, the Dreeghs.
For Earth’s inhabitants could provide the Dreeghs with blood, the essence of ‘life’ imperative for their survival. It was the beginning of a struggle, a conflict that was to be decided not by force of arms but by intelligence, by the supermind.
But how far can the mind go? Research Alpha had to find out. If the evolutionary process could be speeded up so that a million years’ development could take place within a few days, could Point Omega be reached, the point of supreme intelligence, where man is at one with totality?’
Blurb from the 1979 NEL paperback edition
This is one of van Vogt’s more successful fix-up novel, based on the stories ‘Asylum’, ‘Research Alpha’ and ‘The Proxy Intelligence’.
Unbeknown to terrestrials, Earth’s humans are part of a Galactic seeding project from before the dawn of time. Now, a party of vampire Dreeghs have discovered Earth, and they plan to replenish their life-force by drinking the blood of humanity.
However, Earth is under observation by a small number of alien humans who report to the Great Galactics.
This is van Vogt almost back to his old form with his surreal sciences, the rational men with enormous IQs and the secret space-ships and bases.
One of the alien agents makes contact with a reporter, a man whom the Dreeghs are pursuing for very different reasons, and in so doing triggers an evolutionary process within the reporter which increases his IQ into four figures.
A complex game of cat and mouse ensues until the Dreeghs are defeated in a manner, if not audacious, then downright baffling.
The problem with Supermind is that is a book of two halves, and once the Dreeghs are dealt with we have a situation in which a renegade scientist is experimenting on humans to produce the evolutionary effect.
It’s a far more satisfactory piece than much of late van Vogt and there are flashes of his earlier panache and technicolor widescreen bravado.
The writing is always compelling however. van Vogt has an inexplicable talent for describing the environments in which his protagonists do whatever they have to do, and making it just slightly off-kilter from reality.