The Battle of Forever – AE van Vogt (1971)
‘”What a noble and handsome head, and delightful tapering body. The tiny arms and legs…” This was Man, retreating from the world behind the barrier for several thousand years. The chosen few lived a life of peace, of philosophical contemplation. Outside were the animal-men, biologically created from the beasts that used to roam the earth. Their lives were perfectly regulated by computers, crime-free and idyllic.
But when Modyun agreed to grow his body large to experience once again those degrading bodily functions, and to go beyond the barrier … the battle for existence had already begun. If only he could discover the cause and the purpose. But his questioning mind only led him deeper into darkness, deeper into uncertainty.’
Blurb from the 1971 NEL paperback edition
Modyun is an evolved human of the far future, living a life of philosophical contemplation behind ‘the barrier’ with the remnants of the human race, reduced to existing as a great head with a tiny body.
Modyun (and one of the evolved females) is persuaded (for reasons which are not important) to reassume a full human body, complete with archaic bodily functions and go outside the barrier to discover what is happening with Earth.
One can only conclude that the blurb for this novel was necessarily vague because the storyline is convoluted to the point of non-comprehensibility.
He discovers that the animals of Earth have been turned into animal men and are being drafted into an army to fight a war by aliens who have, at the same time, ensured that Mankind has been weakened by sealing themselves off behind the barrier.
Modyun passes himself off as an ape and joins his new animal friends as they board the alien transport ship to fight in the alien war. Modyun – a later incarnation of van Vogt’s ‘logical hero’ eventually confronts his enemy and saves the day.
This is late, and weak, work by van Vogt with little to recommend it as even ‘experimental’ fiction.