Currently unavailable.
We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

The Weapon Shops of Isher

See all 14 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price
New from Used from
"Please retry"
CDN$ 77.92

Unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping for Six Months When You Try Amazon Student
click to open popover

No Kindle device required. Download one of the Free Kindle apps to start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, and computer.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Amereon Ltd (February 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0848808517
  • ISBN-13: 978-0848808518
  • Shipping Weight: 789 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  •  Would you like to update product info, give feedback on images, or tell us about a lower price?

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 22 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars They're Great! Sept. 19 2016
By hobo - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
They're Great!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Right to Buy Weapons is the Right to be Free" May 1 2006
By Patrick Shepherd - Published on
Sounds like a blurb from the NRA, but in fact this slogan is one of the lynch-pins of one of the most complicated and headlong adventures that van Vogt (often called the master of the re-complicated story) ever wrote.

The Weapon Shops, like many of his stories, was actually written and published as several stories before being collected and somewhat edited into book form. In this case, the major portions were published as "The Seesaw" (Astounding, July 1941), "The Weapon Shop" (Astounding, Dec 1942), and "The Weapon Shops of Isher (Thrilling Wonder Stories, Feb. 1949). It is important to note the age of these stories, written as they were during the so-called `Golden Age' of science fiction, when ideas were far more important than character or great prose style. This book is absolutely replete with ideas, but the prose, dialogue, and character development certainly leave something to be desired when compared to modern novels. While reading this book you need to let the story line and ideas overwhelm you, and ignore some of the more blatant excesses in writing style.

It starts with a Weapon Shop magically appearing in a 1950 neighborhood. When a policeman attempts to open its door, he finds it locked - but when a newspaperman tries it just a minute later, it opens - and the newspaperman finds himself in the Isher Empire, which has been around for 4700 years, and where the Weapon Shops effectively form the `opposition' to this government. This is plot thread number one. The second thread is that of a young man wishing to leave his provincial village and make his fortune in the big city - where he finds that he is a `callidetic giant', able to beat any game of chance, and ends up amassing a fortune so large that he can upset the economic stability of the Empire. Thread three involves the world's only immortal, Robert Hedrock, who was instrumental in establishing both the Empire and the Weapon Shops, the first to provide a stable form of government, the second to ensure that the Empire can neither stagnate nor become an unopposed dictatorship. Stir in invisibility, time travel, and the secret of faster-than-light propulsion and you have an explosive mix that will keep you turning pages as fast as you can (and don't you dare think about the plausibility of any of this!).

I think I first read this book around 1960, when I was about twelve, and many of the images of this book made a large impression on me: the casinos and their very futuristic gambling machines, the giant computer that kept track of all the vital statistics of every person in the solar system, the idea of waging war by shifting in time, the `brothels' of the day, even the `energy weapons' that the Weapon Shops sold. Reading it today, these same items still fascinate - and the ending is still an explosive bang.

The thematic point of the right to have weapons strong enough to protect the individual from any government excesses is a major one, and certainly was very topical when it was written at the height of WWII. However, this point is not examined very closely for its downside, because in the story such weapons could `sense' whether or not the person purchasing it had the appropriate mental outlook - an easy way out of the problems seen by today's society with too many weapons freely available to almost anyone.

This is possibly his strongest novel, certainly at least as good as his Slan and The World of Null-A, as here all the various ideas and plot threads do seem to come together in a cohesive whole, something that could not be said about a lot of his works. And it is a pell-mell, head-over-heels, fun and fascinating read.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guns and Empire March 21 2013
By Paul Camp - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
There are some critics like Colin Wilson who view A.E. van Vogt as a profound philosophical science fiction writer. I suspect that rather more critics side with Damon Knight, who finds van Vogt to be a writer of almost no literary value at all. My own view is a bit more mixed. I find that many of van Vogt's novels (_The Beast_, _Rogue Ship_, _Darkness at Diamonda_) are awesomely bad. A few others (_The War Against the Rull_, _The Silkie_) are passable space operas. And then there are those that are part fairy tale, part mad inspiration, part dream sequence, and part pseudoscientific doubletalk that actually deserve their reputation: _Slan_ (1946), _The Book of Ptath_ (1947), _The World of Null A_ (1948), and _The Voyage of the Space Beagle_ (1950). For all their faults, these novels have a pizzazz and energy that transcend literary polish.

_The Weapon Shops of Isher_ (1951) belongs in this third category of van Vogt's novels. It is one of his most skillful fixup novels, based on novelettes from _Astounding_ and _Thrilling Wonder_ in the 1940s.

We are presented with a lot of the gee-whiz trappings that we come to expect of van Vogt at his best. There is an Empire ruled by a beautiful, but willful and ruthless Empress. In loyal opposition, there are the powerful Weapon Shops that bear the libertarian motto:


There is the obligatory van Vogt superman, Robert Hedrock, who (it develops) has something to do with both the Empire and the Shops, and who has an agenda of his own. And there is McAllister, the hapless newsman, who has become a kind of human pendulum swinging through space-time:

The newsman was now the juggernaut of all juggernauts. In all the universe there had never been anything like the power that was accumulating, swing by swing, in his body. Released, the explosion would rock the fabric of space. All time would sigh to its echoes and the energy tensions that created the illusion of matter might collapse before the strain. (78)

But perhaps the real secret of the success of the novel is that much of the action is told from the point of view of three "little people": Fara, a pompous small-town shopkeeper; Cayle, his rebellious but naive son; and Lucy, a brave but impulsive agent for the Weapon Shops. Part of the fun of the novel is watching Fara learn the way of the Weapon Shops, Cayle learn the ways of the City and Mars, and Lucy fend for herself when the Shops cast her adrift. We see these characters grow and change, and their interactions with one another mature.

There are sections of mad invention:

Swiftly he held one of the rings on his finger against an ordinary looking electric socket. A loop of metal slid out. He inserted his finger into the loop and pulled. What happened in that moment was an ordinary enough weapon shop phenomenon. He was transmitted by a weapon shop matter transmitter a distance of about eleven hundred miles into one of his numerous laboratories...
He decided that he could safely remain an hour. (83-84)

And there are other sections that seem dreamlike:

Twice, involuntarily, she slowed. The first time, something soft seemed to caress her face. It was almost as if a loving hand reached out and deliberately touched her, with affectionate fingers. The second time, the result was more dramatic. She caught her breath suddenly. A flush burned her face and down her body...
It was in just such nuances that the House of Illusion excelled. Here, tired old roues... could recapture for a price otherwise lost emotions of their abused bodies. (93-94)

What, then, of the pseudoscience? In other novels, van Vogt makes use of Nexiallism, non-Aristotelianism, the Bates system of eye exercises, and Dianetics. I have suggested elsewhere that the wise reader will not take these hobbyhorses too seriously. In _The Weapons Shops of Isher_, we don't have a pseudoscience so much as we have the libertarian philosophy of the Weapon Shops. I am afraid that many younger readers will be led astray by this. They will claim that the novel is a solemn philosophical defense of the second amendment and the National Rifle Association. The truth is that a van Vogt novel-- even a good van Vogt novel-- is never a terribly rational affair. Van Vogt was always more concerned with telling a kind of creative science fiction fairy tale more than he was promoting a rational philosophy. Many times he failed in a spectacular manner. This is not one of his failures. Not by a long shot. Oh, and did I mention that the novel has what Anthony Boucher called one of the greatest curtain lines in all of science fiction?
4.0 out of 5 stars A great sentiment unfulfilled April 9 2007
By J. A. Eyon - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This starts out promisingly as a story about a shadow government in a totalitarian state. The rebels are fronted by weapon shops because they, like many libertarians today, believe that personal liberty is expressed by by the right to bear arms (ie, the right to defend yourself from criminals, even if they are governments). By the end, however, we have almost no glimpse of the illicit society. A modest look at the totalitarian one. And almost none of the philosophical underpinnings. But that's typical Alfred Elton van Vogt. His works are often vague and mystifying.

Reportedly, van Vogt exploited his dreams for some of his plotting which may explain why this one unfolds in a dreamlike way, morphing from one setting into another, often winding up in fantastical environs. Unfortunately, in this case, the story meanders around the periphery of the conflict between the monarchy and the weapons shops.

Here, like in too many of his stories, van Vogt's characters are blanks without depth or personality. All they do is justify the quotation marks. (The exceptions are van Vogt's supermen, who exude confidence, and his alien creatures, who are generally primitive and animal whatever their technological level.)

Probably because van Vogt wasn't a trained scientist, he blithely took science to the n-th degree -- a million million years into the past, a gigantic floating store, immortals, etc. Such concepts were new and daring when van Vogt began writing.

In the end, like many of his other stories, this one moves quickly. Probably due to his system of stringing together 800-word mini-dramas to form the whole.

I almost never remember a van Vogt plot. But I do remember that is was a good ride. And I'm surprised and delighted that for the fraction of his writing life devoted to the weapon shops, van Vogt spoke libertarian.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right to Buy Weapons Jan. 4 2015
By DrPat - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"When a people lose the courage to resist encroachment on their rights, then they can't be saved by an outside force. Our belief is that people always have the kind of government they want." and "People always have the kind of government they want. When they want change, they must change it."

The first Ace Double paperback I bought with my own earnings as a youngster was this one by A.E. Van Vogt. I did not remember what was on the flip side of the tête-bêche book; I had to look it up. (It was Murray Leinster's Gateway to Elsewhere. Leinster's opus is apparently only available as the Ace Double, used, now.) But when I noticed the Van Vogt novel was available on Kindle, I got it and read it again in one gulp.

This was the story I remembered, with the poor hapless reporter swinging helplessly from past to future, the doppelganger of the rebellious son making it big in the stock market (because he had transported himself several months into the past, and had records of the market's performance), and the weapon shops themselves.

For a child of the fifties, the motto of the weapon shops, THE RIGHT TO BUY WEAPONS IS THE RIGHT TO BE FREE, resonated. And today, the position of the weapon shops in opposition to government--whether tyrannical or benevolent--and their capability to provide each individual with the means to resist aggression, accords well with my own mostly-libertarian philosophy.

Van Vogt's science was radical for the time, and not very well explained by the novel, but his political stance was obvious. His weapons were defensive technology only: they could not be used to murder, but could be used to kill an aggressor. They could also benefit the criminal in evading arrest, and not just because Isher was a culture where the laws and police were organized to suit the rulers more than the citizens.

Van Vogt foresaw a time where majority rule would be so powerful that the opposed individual (however moral or immoral) would have no recourse against it, without the Weapon Shops. Yes, he said, guns can be used in support of crime, even configured not to be used in aggression. And that's all right, when laws can be used in support of aggression against the individual who is opposed to the majority.

Because the right to buy weapons is the right to be free.

Look for similar items by category