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Book Note: Edward E. Smith, Subspace Explorers

I read this book about 19-Nov-2003. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1982. This note was last modified Tuesday, 20-May-2014 08:49:14 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "Subspace" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


That copyright date is correctly transcribed from the book; however it also says "Ace edition published 1965". ISFDB shows a Canaveral Press edition in 1965 and an Ace (H-102) in 1968. The 1982 edition was presumably in preparation for the 1983 release of Subspace Encounter as completed by Lloyh Arthur Eshbach (who also published Have Trenchcoat, Will Travel, and who died not long ago as I write this).

This is a highly psionic book—late Smith in that regard (perhaps the Campbellian influence, indirectly?). In other ways it's a lot like Spacehounds of IPC, a very early Smith. And here on page 21 it says "Neglecting the Einstein effect, which is altogether too hairy for a slipstick...". They're going to reach .6c, so that's sorta approximate. Well, I guess it is too hairy for a slipstick: it contains a subtraction! (And two squares, and a square root, and some division, but that's all easy on a slipstick). (Oh, all right: t' = t/√(1-v²/c²)). I wonder how people are actually expected to make use of that "radical sign" entity? I'm sure that isn't really it.

Also pretty darned cold-blooded. Despite the fact that Barbara Warner is described as on the outs with her parents, I really think there should be some notice taken of the fact that they're killed in the catastrophe (when the Procyon picks up the zeta field). It's not clear if they ever even knew their daughter had gotten married.

This book comes together in my head with a snippet from the biography in Have Trenchcoat, Will Travel. Smith is said to have held important executive positions in several cereal plants. The portrayal of executive-level interactions in this book, and also in the Entwhistle Ordnance plant story in Triplanetary, are probably actually based on more real-world experience with business at that level than most other SF authors. Smith is famous for being a Doctor (PhD); but I think his high-level management experience is rather rarer among SF authors. Come to think of it, there are some bits of this in First Lensman, too; where Virgil Samms is undercover working for the enemy, and also Conway Costigan.

This is one of the more libertarian of Smith's books. Greedy capital and serf labor are alike excoriated. On the other hand, the planetsmen are shown as being organized to a T also, which doesn't fit most libertarian models (it's collective action). It may be a more workable model of a libertarian economy, though; collective action is extremely powerful, and completely forgoing it is suicidal if there's real opposition.

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David Dyer-Bennet