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Book Note: William B. Ellern, New Lensman

I read this book about 7-Jul-2001. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1966, 1975. This note was last modified Saturday, 19-Aug-2006 10:41:05 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This book, along with a bunch of other Doc Smith stuff, came up in a discussion on Usenet rec.arts.sf.written in the wake of Gharlane's unexpected death. I've pulled a few things out of the shelves to look stuff up for discussions, and this has lead to me rereading some of the books, including this one. I remembered it as very bad, nearly as bad as the David A. Kyle Lensman books, but others had kinder memories. Guess I'd better check it out. I believe this is the first-ever reread of this book for me.

This is set around the time of First Lensman; the anointing of the first lensmen, the creation of the Galactic Patrol, and the Black Fleet's attack on The Hill. This is a clever approach; mostly out of the mainstream of action, but solidly in the Lensverse and connected, slightly, to important characters we know from elsewhere (McQueen lenses Kinnison, Samms, Knobos, and DalNalten, for example; and has unsatisfactory interactions with Fairchild, as well). McQueen is a Lieutenant in the Solarian Patrol at the start, and is made a Lensman in what is probably the third batch.

This was published with Smith's permission (a facsimile of his note, dated 14-Jul-1965, is in fact printed in my edition of the book). A shorter version titled "Moon Prospector" was published in 1966 in Analog.

One of the amusing things is that this book includes technology not available in Doc Smith's books, even much later. In particular, computers. The story was published in 1966; I have dates of 1976 and 1979 for the book, and it's possible the computers were updated to a 1970s level at that point. Anyway, they have artificial intelligence (speech-programmed computers that they're willing to trust with weapons), and 3D drafting tanks, and useful stuff like that.

I think a book like this would only be of interest to dyed-in-the-wool (alt. "drooling") Doc Smith fans

It bothers me that this stuff exists on Tellus and Luna back at the time of the founding of the Patrol, but hardly exists later. But I suppose it might have bothered readers that it didn't exist, when they read it in 1976. I think a book like this would only be of interest to dyed-in-the-wool (alt. "drooling") Doc Smith fans, and I think in general we'd rather not have that sort of major inconsistency in the universe.

So, finally, I'd say it's considerably better than I remembered. Which makes it a pity that Ellern didn't, apparently, write anything else.

On 19-Nov-2001 I received email from Mr. Ellern, who updated my bibliographic information:

"Moon Prospector" was a short story published in Analog April 1966. "New Lensman" was serialized [in] Perry Rhodan #61 thru #75 and published by Futura Pubs Ltd in 1976 (about 7 years after it was actually written.) "Triplanetary Agent" was serialized in Perry Rhodan #100 thru #104. "Lensman's Revenge" is still in manuscript form and was the first of three proposed novels of the Unattached Lensman Series about the need for their creation.

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David Dyer-Bennet