(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Van Vogt had an extraordinary imagination that made his fiction inventive and surprising, and his imaginary worlds were unified with well-worked-out themes that focused on fundamental aspects of the human condition. He influenced the direction science fiction has taken—and influenced such notable authors as Philip K. Dick and Larry Niven.

In the case of Slan, van Vogt penned one of the great teen-exploitation novels, or in other words, a novel that plays on adolescent feelings of loneliness and unreasoned anger, as well as the desire to be someone special, and also examines the conflicting desires to be grownup and to remain childlike. The term "teen-exploitation novel" is usually used disparagingly to label shallow works that manipulate teenagers in order to attract a teenaged audience. Yet, some teen-exploitation novels rise above being merely exploitive and present teenaged desires in ways that enhance young readers' understanding of themselves or in ways that encourage teenagers to think.

Slan encourages thought. Main character Jommy Cross's adventures include some significant speculations on human evolutionary history and on what evolution may promise for humanity. Considered one of the best fictional examinations of human evolution ever written, the novel encourages thinking about biological sciences, as well as about people's ability to cope with fundamental changes in their biology.

The novel qualifies as a...

(The entire section is 353 words.)