Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Classic Sci-Fi and the Basis for Alien

The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt (1950, 192 pgs) is a book that I read for a number of reasons. Paul, at Backcountry Musings, offered up a challenge of reading new-to-him Classic Sci-Fi authors. Since I'm a newbie in this genre, just about everyone fits that bill!! Secondly, it's the June selection in the Yahoo group, Classic Sci-Fi. Somehow I got asked to lead this discussion. So I decided to go on a voyage!

This book was originally 4 short stories that were put together in a "fixup" by van Vogt. The stories are all about the crew of the Space Beagle (a Darwin reference) and its intergalactic expedition. The crew is made up of military personnel and scientists that are on board to study alien life in other galaxies. Eliot Grosvenor, is the books protagonist. He is the lone Nexialist aboard the ship. Nexialism is a relatively new science. It is one that encompasses ALL the other sciences and relates them together. It is more generalized than specific, but it also adds an element of hypnotism and mind control. At first, Grosvenor isn't given much thought. He is left to himself until trouble comes aboard and his skills are called into play.

Each story, or section, in the book describes contact with an alien race. In the first story, the crew members explore what they think is a seemingly deserted planet. The stumble across Coeurl, a cat-like creature that has tentacles and an incredible hunger. He pretends to be just another dumb animal, and the crew members "capture" him and take him aboard the ship to study. But Coeurl is hungry and he has an agenda. He quickly escapes and terrorizes the ship.

They also encounter the Riim, a bird-like creature that has great hypnotic power; the Ixtl, a devil-like alien that is keen on breeding, by implanting his eggs in the stomach of the crew members; and Anabis, who is galaxy-wide and is waiting to take over planets.

While the aliens are the main part of the storyline, what appealed to me even more was the relationships of the crew members. If the creatures outside don't get you, the people inside just might! There is a political undertone that reflects the climate on the ship. The military and the scientists always seem to be at odds with each other and underlies the harmony on the ship. It seems to be a pretty accurate assessment of ventures even today that involve the same types of people. While a lot of the "scientific" stuff is really dated, I was intrigued by the politicking going on inside the walls of the Beagle. This was a short, fun read. I can see a lot of present day science fiction that was influenced by this writer. Overall, I highly enjoyed it!! 4/5

1 comment:

Backcountry Muse said...

Wonderful review, Stephanie. I do believe you're REALLY getting into this sci-fi stuff ... and I hope you can lay the blame all on me :-}