Daily Archives: March 31, 2010

Book #9 – Space Beagle!

Book #9 – The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A.E. van Vogt

This book is noted as being the inspiration for Alien and indeed a settlement was paid to van Vogt by 20th Century Fox because of the similarities.  I can see that, though from the POV of a young-ish reader in 2010, it’s hard to imagine science fiction without the trope of an alien using a human as a host for reproduction. The work that Space Beagle has obviously influenced is Star Trek. This novel is a collection of four stories that are gently connected. In each, the Beagle encounters a space-bound threat; red-shirts die. But there is no Federation in the cold darkness of van Vogt’s space. That makes these stories more tense than any Trek episode.

Also, there is no Capt. Kirk. Instead, van Vogt’s hero is Grosvenor, a multi-disciplined scientist who saves the day by seeing past the short-comings of his specialist colleagues. Underneath the questionable pychobabble-based science, van Vogt does have an interesting point about the dangers of over-specializing versus taking a broader view of sciences, both hard and soft. Since this very thing plays a roll in the Zeta Iota project that Eric and I are working on, I was pleased with the serendipity.

The writing is…perfunctory. Van Vogt tells the stories. There is some description, but not much.  There is some dialog, but not much. People exclaim when they really…wouldn’t.  Still, the first story ("Black Destroyer" or Ch. 1-6) held my attention completely.

I have three choices for my next ten days: Starship TroopersBattlefield Earth, and  Clear and Present Danger. There is no way I’d be able to read Battlefield Earth in ten days. Well, I could, but I wouldn’t be doing much else. Actually, the Clancy in ten days might be difficult too.  April 10th is another Read-a-Thon. Maybe that will help. Leaning toward the Clancy.

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In the realm of short fiction for this ten-day:
"Eros, Philia, Agape" by Rachel Swirsky; lovely story about robots, love, and identity. Swirsky has become a name I’ll look out for.
"In the Porches of My Ears" (PDF) by Norman Prentis; Prentis just won a Stoker for this story. It is horror in its most subtle form.
"How Interesting: A Tiny Man" by Harlan Ellison; An look at how a wonderful curiosity can be utterly destroyed.