I read this book about 19-Dec-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1965. This note was last modified Saturday, 21-Dec-2002 18:18:57 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
Another late Smith book, and one of the cooler ones. He's actually overcome a few of his hang-ups a bit. Although he does still have characters say "we serve neither intoxicants nor drugs" while passing out the cigarettes. (I should probably mention that Doc Smith is one of my very favorite authors ever, and pretty clearly had far too much to do with forming my internal model of the universe. Except about cigarettes.)
This is Smith's most psionic book. That's not all bad, since he plays reasonably fair with it (rather as he does in Skylark Duquesne). Psionics as he uses it has rules and principles, and scientific discoveries get made. Still, they do tend to raise personal power to a level rather out of human scale.
I think it may span a wider playing field than any previous work (depending on how you score the 4th-dimensional excursion in Skylark Three); we never actually know where any of the non-local galaxies actually are in space, though.
On page 11, they're talking about different theories of control on their starship (not tested yet). Garlock argues that motion will be completely random, a competing mathematician argues they'll go to the nearest "equiguntherial" point, both have completely convincing proofs. I have a practical problem with the theory that they'll go to the nearest point. How do they get back? What if the nearest point from their destination isn't back to the first point, but onwards somewhere? Of course, random doesn't get them back very well either. I guess Garlock and James go because they figure they'll eventually figure it out on the trip. I think the girls are just crazy. And they do eventually figure it out, and nothing is said about how either of the perfect proofs was faulty.
Some aspects of Smith's essentialist universes sound very attractive. "Since you have been examined and accepted, there are no restrictions — you will not act against humanity's good." (p.20)
Now and then there are these simply amazing sentences. They pack in so much subtextual information. How about this (p.48):
Thrusting two arms into the opening, he yanked out two organs...and ate them both; if not with extreme gusto, at least in a workmanlike and thoroughly competent fashion.There's actually a section set off with em-dashes elided in the ellipsis, even. This guy knows how to work with his punctuation!
"You're silly. Worse, squeamish. Worst, supremely illogical." The Arpalone paused, then went on as though trying to educate a hopelessly illogical inferior." While we do not kill Arpales purposely -- except when they overbreed -- why waste good meat as fertilizer? If the diet is wholesome, nutritious, well-balanced and tasty, what shred of difference can it possibly make what its ingredients once were?"Those Arpalones are sure sensitive guys, eh?
Pages 70 through 73. Garlock studies three countries which obviously represent the Soviet Union and China and the United States.
You have an ally, a nation known as the "Brotherhood of Peoples' Republics". Where is its capital? Slide is over there, Jim. Now, Prime Minister Sovig, you and your ally, the second and first most populous nations of your world, are combining to destroy--a pincers movement, let us say?--the third largest nation, or rather, group of nations: the Nations of the North ... oh, I see. Third only in population, but first in productive capacity and technology. They are too idealistic to strike first, so you will. After you strike, they will not be able to. Whereupon you, personally, will rule the world. I will add to that something you're not thinking, but should: you will rule until one of your friends puts his pistol to the back of your neck and blows your brains out.
"The code is neither a long enough nor complicated enough to require interpretation," Garlock stated, finally. " It either applies in full and exactly or not at all. It's like being pregnant, Belle -- either you are or you aren't."Garlock is talking about the Code of Urbanity, which seems to be what governs sexual relationships in their society. Apparently declaring behavior to be inurbane is the most extreme action against somebody. It's an interesting idea, but I have my doubts that something could be too simple to require interpretation, at least on this topic.
Page 110. Garlock and James have a discussion about Garlock's interest in Belle Bellamy. What it comes down to is that Garlock requires a spouse who is his equal in all ways. Well, okay, not physical strength, for example. But it's one of the strongest pleas for a pure equal partnership between man and woman that I've seen.