The Voyage of the Space Beagle
Classic space opera by an old master.
The Voyage of the Space Beagle, so named after Charles Darwin’s ship of exploration, tells the story of a scientific mission which encounters alien races and civilisations - most of them hostile.
Notable examples are the Riim - telepathic alien birds - and the Coeurl - a large predatory cat-being with tentacles sprouting from its shoulders. The latter creature later cropped up in the Final Fantasy roleplay videogames series.
The novel was originally published as four stories, in Astounding and Other Worlds magazines, between 1939 and 1943: Black Destroyer, War of Nerves, Discord in Scarlet and M33 in Andromeda. It was re-published in 1952 with the less evocative title Mission: Interplanetary.
The book was a clear influence on Star Trek and Alien - in fact, van Vogt started a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox as the events of Alien closely mirrored a chapter of Space Beagle. Fox settled out of court.
Along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, van Vogt was one of the mid-20th century's masters of literary science fiction.
Work nominated by StandonZanzibar.