Space vampires known as Dreeghs land on Earth in an attempt to dominate the planet and feed off humans, despite the fact that the planet is under protection from a being known as the Great Galactic. The Great Galactic uses lesser races such as Kluggs and Lennels to carry out its missions. These races are considered to be Observers and the Dreeghs begin by seeking them out to be destroyed first, thereby opening the floodgates for a full invasion.
In doing so, the first two Dreeghs to crash on Earth somehow assume that any random newspaper reporter will have all of the information they need to find the local Observer for Earth. After murdering two humans for nourishment, the Dreeghs encounter a journalist named William Leigh when he accompanies a strange woman on a mission to confront the vampires and warn them off.
The woman is later revealed to be Patricia Ungarn, daughter of renown Professor Ungarn. The space vampires conclude that this professor, who resides on a meteorite out near Jupiter, is the local Observer working for the Great Galactic. As such, he must be eliminated before the fleet of Dreegh vessels arrives in the solar system to take over Earth. However, the Great Galactic has foreseen this and initiates a plan to defeat the vampires by placing its enormous intelligence first into William Leigh and then into the mind of the Ungarn’s dim space freighter pilot, Steve Hanardy.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, research scientist Doctor Gloge is experimenting with the Omega serum, intended to increase human evolution in stages from several hundred thousand years to—ultimately—one million years. Frustrated by years of failed experimentation on animals, Gloge chooses two human subjects who work in lower positions for the Project Alpha research facility. During chance meetings with them, the scientist successfully injects them with the serum using an air gun. Each reacts in their own unique—and unexpected—way…
Did any of the above make sense to you? Do you see how the space vampire plot relates to the Omega serum story? No? Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Van Vogt is a legend, but Supermind is, by far, not one of the grand master’s finest works. It’s a conglomeration of three short stories poorly stitched together (“Asylum”, “The Proxy Intelligence”, and “Research Alpha”). A byproduct of this attempt to blend and connect the three included minor rewrites that inserted some characters from each story into the others, however loosely.
The concept of space vampires has no appeal to me at all, but the final section of the novel, based on “Research Alpha,” is a fantastic story and a fine example of Van Vogt at his best.
There were a few bothersome aspects early in the novel that either threw me briefly out of the story or gave me a chuckle such as odd character reactions, jarring jump cuts where characters abruptly turned up in a new location, and a handful of cheesy lines of narrative: “…her eyes struck me like a blow,” “Vampire victory is near,” and “His brain tensed.” Oy vey!!
I would not recommend Supermind as a first book for readers interested in Van Vogt. Instead, I suggest beginning with Slan.