“Vault of the Beast,” A E van Vogt, 1940 – Adventure tale of a shape-shifting alien sent to consult Earth’s greatest mathematician in order to unlock an alien researcher trapped in the “vault of the beast.” The alien intelligence is structurally unstable; it needs life nearby to remain solid, otherwise it is drawn toward metal, toward dissolution and reintegration as a simulacrum.
Comments: Several scenes could be right out of Terminator 2, e.g. the scene in which the finger extends and becomes a clamp, the morphing of the body. Themes of doppelgangers, identity, replication, paranoia. Adventure tale that recalls Campbell’s “Who Goes There?” and anticipates P. K. Dick. Read in The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology.
Author: Wikipedia: “Alfred Elton van Vogt (April 26, 1912 – January 26, 2000) was a Canadian-born science fiction author regarded as one of the most popular and complex science fiction writers of the mid-twentieth century: the ‘Golden Age‘ of the genre.”