The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Voyage of the Space Beagle incorporates A. E. van Vogt’s first two published science-fiction stories, “Black Destroyer” and “Discord in Scarlet,” along with additional material, to form a cohesive plot. The novel centers on Elliott Grosvenor’s attempts to educate the specialized scientific community aboard the Space Beagle—named for Charles Darwin’s ship—in the science of Nexialism, or “applied whole-ism,” as the ship courses through intergalactic space on a dangerous scientific expedition. As the only Nexialist on board, Grosvenor must contend with the egos and fragmentary knowledge of 804 scientists and 180 officers as they encounter a succession of highly evolved aliens.

The tension between Grosvenor and his main antagonist, Gregory Kent, the overly emotional head of the chemistry department, accelerates after the ship’s encounter with the Coeurl, a highly skilled catlike creature capable of interfering with energy sources in search of its food source, “id,” or potassium suspended in living tissue. Grosvenor’s synthesis of knowledge from each of the scientific communities, along with an explanation of Spenglerian cycles by historian/archaeologist Dr. Korita, leads to success in an encounter with the Coeurl.

Because of his Nexial conditioning, Grosvenor proves similarly successful in resisting the hypnotic images thrust on the ship by the Riim, an overspecialized civilization of birdlike...

(The entire section is 496 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The novel takes place in deep outer space, after months of travel from Earth's own solar system. The characters are travelling in a space...

(The entire section is 275 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Voyage of the Space Beagle was a popular novel when it was published, because it combined interesting scientific speculations with...

(The entire section is 424 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Teachers using this novel in a classroom must be acutely aware that the first alien met by the crew of the Space Beagle is named pussy...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Where have you heard before of a ship full of men going into uncharted regions, looking for knowledge?

2. How is this journey...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Who was Darwin? What voyage did he make? Is van Vogt drawing any comparisons between the journey of his character Grosvenor and the voyage...

(The entire section is 743 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Voyage of the Space Beagle is credited by James Cameron as being the inspiration for the movie Alien.


(The entire section is 108 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Coax, Arthur Jean. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8: Twentieth-Century American Science-Fiction Writers. Editors David Cowart...

(The entire section is 309 words.)