enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Edward E. Smith, The Best of E.E. Doc Smith

I read this book about 31-Aug-2002. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1975. This note was last modified Thursday, 30-May-2013 16:43:21 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This book is badly mistitled. It's actually composed almost entirely of magazine versions of things later revised into books. It also contains a few standalone stories that haven't been widely republished (mostly for the obvious reasons). I think it was published at a time when "best of" collections were very popular, and they wanted to make it fit into the crowd (and fly off the shelves).

It's also pretty clearly an American reprint of a British book. There's both a preface and a forward by people who are clearly British, and who I've never heard of before (Smith doesn't mention them, for example). No criticism of them intended; what they have to say is interesting, and so forth. By the way, no matter what they tell you, Spacehounds of IPC is not part of the Lensman series.

Seeing the early versions of things is often interesting, and this is the only place I have copies of some of the standalone stuff, so I'm glad I have this book.

There's an excerpt from The Skylark of Space; the section while DuQuesne's ship is running away with them, up through when Seaton finds them and rescues them. I can't tell from memory if this is the magazine version or the later (non-Garby) version.

Then there's a nice anti-robot story I haven't seen elsewhere, "Robot Nemesis", where the very clever physicist who has dedicated his life to opposing them foils their sinister plan to hijack Earth's Grand Fleet. Light, but kinda fun.

I hear the first version of this wasn't in the Lensman universe

"Pirates of Space" is the section of "Triplanetary" from when the traitor puts the V2 gas into the liner's air until Costigan escapes from Grey Roger's planetoid. This is definitely the later version -- I hear the first version of this wasn't in the Lensman universe, and this one very definitely is.

"The Vortex Blaster" is the initial piece of the book, up through when Cloud snuffs his first vortex. I think it's a very nice bit (and I like the rest of that book, too).

"Tedric" and "Lord Tedric" are two time-travel stories, not based on Earth history. A meddler sees that his civilization must inevitably collapse within n1 years, and goes back and changes a key point in time to make n2 a larger value. He then finds the next point, and so on. Each time he has to kill and replace the version of himself in the new timeline he's created. They're pretty cool. In the first one, the issue is basically getting rid of religion. In the second one, he saves a smart king to let him consolidate his kingdom.

"Subspace Survivors" is the story that became Subspace Explorers. This is considerably different from the version in the novel. It starts with Barbara Warner being unable to resist trying gymnastics at 1.5 gees, and being very pleased she can still do stuff. (I don't actually believe it; since all her training is 1g, I strongly suspect that accelerating faster when she fell would throw everything badly off.) This nicely set up some stuff that still occurs when he meets her in the book version. It carries on through to when they make subspace radio contact with Control 6 and cause a stir -- having been lost a year ago. Andrew Adams is in it, but his wife isn't.

Finally, "The Imperial Stars" is the actual basis for Stephen Goldin's series of the same name. The hereditary acrobats and secret agents, from the 3g planet, who support the Empire. Note the continuation of the acrobatics theme from "Subspace Survivors" (and note that it turns up very strongly again in Have Trenchcoat, Will Travel, too).

So far as I can tell, this book would be of no interest at all to anybody except a serious Doc Smith fan (like me). It would be as disaster as an introduction to his work.

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David Dyer-Bennet