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.)