Cover art for the 1968 edition of “First Lensman”
I’ve been reading the legendary E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensman series recently. After Triplanetary (1948 – originally published as a serial in 1934), which really wasn’t about the Lensmen, but did introduce a few key characters, came First Lensman (1950) which still gave off more of a 1930s flavor.
While readers get their first real glimpse into the lives and power of the Lensmen, the tale reveals itself as terribly dated. The “good guys” are very “North American” centric, women don’t have minds compatible with interacting with the lens, and our guys are scrupulously honest and forthright.
As with “Triplanetary,” I sometimes found it difficult to keep track of scene changes and figure out where I was in the story from one point to the next.
Along with the purely space opera aspects, there were heavy political overtones, no doubt reflecting Smith’s actual viewpoints.
Image captured from Amazon
Over 50 years ago, when all the other guys in Junior High were reading E.E. “Doc” Smith‘s Lensmen series, I was reading his Skylark series, and loving it. I tried re-reading Skylark of Space, the first novel in the series, several years ago, going so far as to buy a paperback copy. It was tough to swallow because it was originally written in the 1930s (the stories were originally serialized in the ’30s and then published in novel form in the 1940s – they had a resurgence in the 1960s and became incredibly popular with teenage males), and comes across as extremely dated. I didn’t notice it when I first read the book, but then I was only 14 at the time.
I’ve owned a copy of Triplanetary, the first in the “Lensmen” series, for years, but every time I tried to read it, I never got past the first few pages. I think it was our hero and heroine enjoying a ballroom dance aboard a spaceliner that put me off. Very 1930s.