Friday, February 04, 2011

The Rough Guide to Space Opera: E. E. 'Doc' Smith - Blue Tyson

E. E. 'Doc' Smith was a science fiction author and known as the father of the space opera. He wrote more than a dozen books and some short stories, which can be found in a Best of and The Vortex Blaster. Like Hamilton, Smith is a good name to have if you are into space opera.

He is most famous for The Lensman series, and this is considerably better than The Skylark of Space, The Galaxy Primes (which you fill find online), Lord Tedric, etc. And the meat of the series is Galactic Patrol, Grey Lensman and Second Stage Lensman, the early history Triplanetary and First Lensman detailing the forming of the Patrol and its history, and then the next generation of Kinnisons in Children of the Lens aren't in the same class, although the latter has its interests. This is basically space navy vs pirates on an awesome scale, with powerful aliens pulling the strings in the background.

Galactic Patrol finds young lieutenant Kimball Kinnison, newly Lensed and hence enabled of some superpowers given a mission - in charge of a ship with a new technology. What do Lensmen and the Galactic Patrol do with space pirates? Kill them. Kill them all. Them blow them up for good measure. Sometimes you have to infiltrate an enemy base to find out what is going on. Kinnison does so, gets his head handed to him, but gets out alive thanks to his Lens abilities, and a talented Patrol nurse whips his sorry massacred Lensman arse back into able-bodied humanity. A Gray Lensman is the next rank, and entitles the holder of this title to be an independent operator. When that is the case, of course you get the talented bunch of space-axe wielding marines and engineers that wetnursed green you through your first mission to come along with you again, when you can requisition anyone. The Lensman series has the classic arms race dilemma - come up with a super ship, have it copied, a new defense - new weapon. The weapon they up the ante with this time is a doozy - a planet from an anti-matter universe. A highly serious missile to be used while Kinnison's abilities expand. Second Stage Lensman is another promotion for Kinnison, and three other non-humans wearers of the Lens who are his equal. His now-fiance Clarissa also takes a lens, as there is a mission that none of the Second Stage are capable of, but she is. These all have greater powers than the lower ranked Lens bearers. So, multiple solo missions in this book, plus more things like death rays made out of stars. All while they get closer to the true nature of their enemy, and that of their Arisian alien Mentor. Highly entertaining. It is then up to the next generation to ultimately finish things off in the next book, with assistance from their elders as they see fit.

Galactic Patrol

Gray Lensman

Second Stage Lensman