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Book Note: Edward E. Smith, Triplanetary

I read this book about 29-Aug-2003. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1948. This note was last modified Monday, 19-May-2014 16:38:42 PDT.

This is book 1 of the "Lensman" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


This is an umpteenth reread for me, and in some ways the spoiler level (for both this book and for later books in the series) is intense. In other ways it may not matter at all.

Lensman series chronology is complex. This book is often described as the first book in the series, and it is far the earliest in internal chronology—it goes back millions of years before the present, even. However, as you can see from the copyright date it was written later. The story as published in the magazines starts with Galactic Patrol (and makes no mention of the Eddorians; the reader actually finds things out as the Patrol does). This and First Lensman were written as prequels for book publication.

The story "Triplanetary", forming something like the last half of this book, was originally written as a standalone, and only grafted onto the Lensman universe later (it was serialized in 1934). That's very much not the best part of the book, although there are a few bits of nice stuff there.

The good part of this book is the close to contemporary stories. "1918" is fun—a Kinnison flying in WWI gets shot down, finds troops, becomes a runner and delivers a message. Not much meat, but very nicely written I thought. Then, in "1941", a Kinnison (the same on, I think) has a very fine story about working as a chemical engineer in an ordinance plant. He ends up running the troubleshooters, and then the safety department, and gets fired for refusing to compromise safety standards. It's a very vivid story, I'd guess based on personal experience.

I do have a sneaking fondness for "The Fall of Rome", which contains some wonderful gladiator sequences—not so much the fighting, as the talk before the bouts.

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David Dyer-Bennet