A. E. van Vogt's THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE
Book review by Dennis D. McDonald
This novel from the “golden age of science fiction,” originally published in 1950 and based on four stories originally published beginning in 1939, is a strange beast.
On the one hand we have a fascinating and at times exciting novel about a huge starship crewed by 1,000 scientists from Earth who travel from star system to star system encountering strange and dangerous life forms.
On the other hand we have a mix of dubious (to us) science, philosophy, and politics that requires the reader to control constant eye-rolling as characters are pushed around by the author to illustrate various far-fetched concepts and ideas.
What got me through the book in just a few sittings was the undeniable creativity. Sure, the techno-babble and alien encounters foreshadow later media such as STAR TREK and ALIEN, but for a novel this old I was constantly impressed by the creativity and the author’s success at creating genuinely interesting life forms to be dealt with “scientifically.”
I probably would have enjoyed this as an adolescent and I am surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did despite the aforementioned shortcomings. I am tempted to again read some older science fiction to see how well it ages, perhaps some of Arthur C. Clarke’s earlier works.
It is fun to go back to a time when Science with a Capital S was respected — and feared — by the public and to see how some authors played to that perception. I was one of those people and admit my life long interest in science was heavily influenced by keen interests in astronomy, space travel, and rocket ships. Times have changed!
Review copyright (c) 2019 by Dennis D. McDonald