enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Edward E. Smith, First Lensman

I read this book about 30-Aug-2003. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1950. This note was last modified Monday, 19-May-2014 16:36:44 PDT.

This is book 2 of the "Lensman" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


The second prequel, or the last-written book, in the famous Lensman series. Best read last IMHO. It's fun to see the back-story developed, that adds a lot to this book. And the notes and prologs in the book versions of the other books have already given away the secret of the Eddorians and such.

An old favorite of mine; this is an umpteenth reread. I do notice I haven't reread these since the log started, though—more than a year.

Here's the first description of a live lens: "It seemed to be composed of thousands—millions—of tiny gems, each of which emitted pulsatingly all the colors of the spectrum; it was throwing out—broadcasting—a turbulent flood of writhing, polychromatic, light!" I can't help thinking how much that resembles some of today's fiber-optic gimcracks.

Mentor's discussion with Samms is a great source for a lot of things, because it was written after all the rest of the series, so it encompassess Smith's final thinking on the topics. It's Mentor himself who refers to picking Lensmen as something "the lensmen themselves could do among babies in their cradles", for example. That has to be regarded as canonical. Arisians can't lie, and that statement isn't much open to interpretation.

At the end of chapter 3, Virgilia is described by the narrator as one of the two human women to ever knowingly encounter an Arisian mind. So the narrator, i.e. Smith, doesn't consider the Kinnison girls from Children of the Lens to be human. That's stated nearly plainly in that book, too, but an additional source is good.

The start of chapter 5 has one brief mention of Samms unfolding his "fans" to swim through the air in zero-gee conditions (as a way of getting around the ship). I don't remember that ever being mentioned anywhere else; of course, they do develop artificial gravity and artificial inertia (which the Nevians had already, at least partially, before this, but never mind that now; oh, wait, it's mentioned as being an efficiency consideration for warships, actually), and ships aren't zero-gee environments in the future.

On page 67, there's a quotation that's in my mind because we discussed it on rec.arts.sf.written—and I had it wrong. One of those quotes where the original is "wrong" and my memory insists on "fixing" it. Grumble. "...Get close enough to him to do such a Davey the Dip act on his mind". No hits on "Davey the Dip" in Google; I wonder if it's an old cultural reference that hasn't hit the net yet, or something Smith made up?

On page 72 it's noted that calling the anti-piracy operation "Boskone" was suggested by Dr. Bergenholm (who we know is an Arisian construct). It's disappointing that nobody notices, later, that Helmuth "speaks for Boskone", and that the Council of Boskone really is running a lot of things. This may speak to the timespan between First Lensmanand Galactic Patrol somewhat. Maybe the baddies took up the name applied by the good guys (they certainly did with "zwilnik").

I continue to like the fact that they had contingency plans for if they lost the election. And that they nearly did. And probably have paid far more attention than I really should to what Smith had to say about the electorate.

The business where they induct all the existing armed forces into the Galactic Patrol, or whatever they're calling it then, still bothers me. Samms does say that authority is "in place"; but I just don't believe that North America and Europe and so forth would give permission for that to happen in that book. Senator Morgan had too much power, represented too many people, for that to be reasonable.

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David Dyer-Bennet