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The Voyage Of The Space Beagle by A.E. Van Vogt

02/08/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Voyage Of The Space Beagle in the USA - or Buy The Voyage Of The Space Beagle in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 215 page enlarged paperback. Price: $14.95 (US), $16.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2077-3).

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A.E. Van's Vogt's first novel was 'The Voyage Of The Space Beagle' and was the first of his fix-up novels where he combined a couple short stories into one cover. No doubt you might have heard of his 1939 novelette 'Black Destroyer' which was referenced for the film and lawsuit around 'Alien'. Well, this is the book that contains it. Crew pick up egg, hatches creature which starts using them to hatch more eggs. Van Vogt was there first and rightly won the lawsuit.

As the title suggests, the Space Beagle does for space exploration what Darwin's ship did for evolution on old Earth. Seek out new life, to boldly go where....actually this was 1950 and predates that little known 'Star Trek' series that came out some sixteen years later. Probably the only real difference is the Beagle didn't have a pointed-eared science officer. Instead, it has Elliott Grosvenor who is their solitary scientist in Nexialism, a combined-science field rather than being a precise expert in one field. As with Van Vogt's later dalliance with General Semantics, he was probably ahead of his time with Nexialism as well. I mean, how often had you wished one specialist scientist would look at a different subject which could contribute ideas to another field? These days, Nexialism could be said to be applied in ecology for its needed multi-disciplines.

The stories here cover what to with the Coeurl, a vicious hungry alien cat, and why its not advisable to take live specimens for study. The intelligent Ixl that incubates its eggs in hosts that is also looking for new planets to invade. The third story dealt with the problems of long space flight and change in science directors.

If anything, Van Vogt addressed the problem of ordinary, albeit scientists, taken by extra-ordinary circumstances and how they coped with it. If you can't see a nascent Starfleet in here then I'd be very much surprised. How much it is dated depends on your age but should be required reading and a further reminder of how much Van Vogt influenced much of modern day favourites.

GF Willmetts

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