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July Books 15) Galactic Patrol

15) Galactic Patrol by E.E. "Doc" Smith

After I read Triplanetary, the first in the famous Lensman series of early sf novels, and didn't like it, several people told me that I should have started with Galactic Patrol. So I've been struggling through it for the last couple of weeks.

Sorry, folks, but this is really not for me. I found the writing turgid and the characters unengaging; and the setting may have seemed fresh and exciting in the 1930s but now seems underdeveloped. The only really interesting character is Kinnison's alien friend. I have another two Lensman books on the shelf but I think they are going to stay there (until someone relieves me of them).


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2006 07:28 am (UTC)
I read a bit of Triplanetary too, and had a similar reaction. Yeah, it obviously wasn't the best place to start, being a chronologically-earlier-but-published-later book, but that doesn't change the astonishingly awful prose.
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:09 am (UTC)
Couldn't agree more. I read the Lensman series when I was about 10 and didn't rate them - I doubt 30 years would improve them.

I have an elderly "Best of E E (Doc) Smith" anthology that does demonstrate that over short distances he could be quite impressive; if you can ignore the total lack of plot, characterisation, dialogue and plausibility there's a kind of mad grandeur to some of his work that prefigures most good space opera.

In a sense, the Lensman series legitimised the SF "epic" just as much as Foundation did - impossible to imagine (say) the Childe Cycle without it...
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:09 am (UTC)
Oh... and one positive thing about the Lensman series - it's infinitely better than the Skylark stuff. Although given that that was started before WW1....
Jul. 20th, 2006 08:48 am (UTC)
To enjoy Smith, you really have to be at most about 12 years old. ;o)

I do recall that the aliens were the most interesting thing about the Lensman series. Also that the first scene of Galactic Patrol features the new Lensmen descending several stories by dropping down an inertialess shaft: I remember thinking even when I was about 10 that they must have a lot of faith in their machines.
Jul. 20th, 2006 02:36 pm (UTC)
Not everyone likes Doc.
You gave him a more than fair try, so subjecting yourself to more would be cruel.

I'll note that I'm well over 12 and I still enjoy Doc. I was not over 12 when I first encountered him, but I was a lot older than that when I found the rest of the books. (In 5th grade I was handed a beat-up copy of Second-Stage Lensmen; it was quite a few years later that I managed to find the rest of the series)
Jul. 21st, 2006 06:06 pm (UTC)
Lensman is one of those classics I've been telling myself I Need To Read To Complete My Education, but haven't been able to manage getting around to yet.

Given that this has not worked out so well (from an entertainment point of view, that is to say) recently (Forever War, Little Big, something else I can't remember this minute) I'm not feeling any beter about the prospect based on your description.

(And I like lots of books i read when I was 12, and lots of new books written for 12-year-olds, so I'm not sure that is a valid defense of Smith. There aren't too many things I can think of - in fact, *any* - that I hate now that I loved when I was 12.)
Jul. 21st, 2006 07:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Humph.
I too have a program of Books I Need To Read To Complete My Education, but the flip side is that I have to accept that there will be a few duds in there. Anyway, time off for good behaviour now.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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