The Voyage of the Space Beagle

A. E. Van Vogt
The Voyage of the Space Beagle Cover

The Voyage of the Space Beagle


This book reminded me a lot of a certain television show from the sixties where men were going where men had never gone before. The titile of the book is a play on the famous voyage taken by Charles Darwin. In this book, we find a crew on a scientific expedition to explore space. Being a scientific mission there is a split command. The Navy handles the everyday running of the ship, but the scientists handle the actual expedition. Leadership is chosen in a democratic fashion.

The book centers around Elliott Grosvenor, a scientist trained in the new science of nexialism. Nexialism is basically a system of subliminal learning that allows its practioners to take in massive amounts of information and incorporate different disciplines into new scientific techniques. Grosvenor often has to save the crew from themselves, so psychology gets emphasized a lot. The crew goes through some political upheaval and meets some interesting creatures allong the way who threaten the expedition.

Van Vogt's characters are paper thin, and he often has the bad habit of writing as if the characters know details they shouldn't. After reading Slan, I'm now convinced he had a thing for tentacles. It is interesting that in 1953, he would choose the crew to be all male, even though he notes that they are given hormone depressants to keep their libidos in check. Grosvenor has the problem of always having all the answers. The book is set up to read like four episodes of Star Trek, where the crew basically encounters four different alien species. Even with these quibbles I still found this to be a pretty fun read just as I still like to watch old Star Trek episodes.