Looking for a book about an individual who comes to a large city to take tests to see what he is qualified for, has trouble, is killed, and wakes up as the same person in a different location. This occurs throughout the book.

It was in English, could have been in the 1960's. I was deep into Isaac Asimov, reading the Foundation series, the Robots series, The Mote in God's Eye, in my late teens and early 20's.


This matches The World of Null-A by A. E. van Vogt. (The title was originally written as The World of Ā, but the nonstandard Ā glyph was replaced in later printings.)

The Wikipedia plot summary includes all the elements that you describe:

Gilbert Gosseyn..., a man living in an apparent utopia where those with superior understanding and mental control rule the rest of humanity, wants to be tested by the giant Machine that determines such superiority. However, he finds that his memories are false. In his search for his real identity, he discovers that he has extra bodies that are activated when he dies (so that, in a sense, he cannot be killed), that a galactic society of humans exists outside the Solar system, a large interstellar empire wishes to conquer both the Earth and Venus (inhabited by masters of non-Aristotelian logic), and he has extra brain matter that, when properly trained, can allow him to move matter with his mind.

It is generally considered one of van Vogt's best works, and it spawned two sequels, The Players of Null-A and Null-A Three, which are not generally as well regarded. The novel version was published in 1948; it was a fix-up, heavily revised from three novellas that were published earlier in the decade. (Each novella covered a single one of Gosseyn's bodies, I believe.)

  • That would have been my answer, too. The sequel, Pawns of Null-A, is also worth reading, IMO, but the (much later) Null-A Three was rather disappointing. – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Jul 31 '18 at 8:18

Could it have been Five Fates by Harlan Ellison, Keith Laumer, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, and Gordon R. Dickson?

The protagonist enters a suicide booth in the first few pages and seems to die. Each of the five authors create different endings for him so he essentially comes back from the dead five times.

It's been ages since I read it or I would provide more details.

Five Fates front cover

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.