The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Null-A trilogy has a complicated publication history involving various revisions and title changes; title differences primarily concern use of “Null-A” as opposed to the symbolic form “A.” The final volume was published first in French, then translated into English.

The World of A begins with Gilbert Gosseyn waking in the City of the Machine, where month-long General Semantics games are about to take place. Winners will be awarded free trips to Venus. Gosseyn has had erroneous ideas hypnotically implanted in his brain; they lead him in a quest to find out who he really is. Even the Machine cannot tell Gosseyn who he is and why non-General Semantics people want to kill him.

Gosseyn has extra material attached to his brain and receives clues throughout the story that there is a sort of chess master controlling and moving him around, like a pawn on a chessboard. The chess master can move Gosseyn back and forth through interstellar space in seconds. This is done for the first time when Gosseyn is killed on Earth but awakens on Venus as Gosseyn Two, with the memory and abilities of Gosseyn One. During his searching and misadventures, Gosseyn learns that his extra brain material marks him as representing the next stage in the evolution of Homo sapiens in the Milky Way galaxy.

Venus is populated only by Null-A’s, those originally from Earth who have been trained in the sane and democratic principles of General Semantics. Eldred Crang, a Venusian detective who moves back and forth between Earth and Venus, plays an unknown part in the mystery of Gilbert Gosseyn. The murderous Enro the Red is delayed in his plans to destroy Venus and Earth, which would crush the Galactic League into submission.

Gosseyn believes that he finds the chess master at the end of the story. He believes the chess master to be Lavoisseurs, director of the General Semantics Institute. It is Lavoisseurs who has constructed several Gosseyn bodies and placed them in controlled incubation in various hidden locations on Earth and Venus. Lavoisseurs cannot finish telling his story before he dies, but a further clue in Gosseyn’s mystery is revealed: When shaved, Lavoisseurs had the face of Gosseyn. At this story’s end, Gosseyn does not have the answers to all of his questions.

In The Pawns of Null-A, the Follower, who materializes and dematerializes as a transparent and shadowy figure, plots the death of Gosseyn Two. Gosseyn must...

(The entire section is 1018 words.)