E.E. 'Doc' Smith

Triplanetary coverTriplanetary by E.E. 'Doc' Smith.

254 pages long.



This 'Classic' was first published in Britain by W.H. Allen & Co. Ltd. in 1971. This then became one of the classic 'Series' of science fiction books written during the golden age of sci-fi.

Edward E. Smith PhD, nicknamed 'Doc', has been compared to Asimov for his depth and universe coverage within his books.

Triplanetary, first of the 'Lensman' series, today feels only a little dated, mostly in the relationship that joins Costigan and Clio, but this is one of the books that made science fiction popular and available to a wider audience. Like reading Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, this has that dated feel to it, but is not at all stifling, indeed the underlying science fiction as space opera or as 'ray guns and spaceships' is first class.

The technology takes a bit of accepting on the readers part, being both heavy and so indepth that only closer examination reveals any credence or absurdity. Generally if accepted at face value it is sufficient to give the impression of great intelligence, but is in no way pompous. The characters are principally names, no indepth description of psyche or stature just standard types. The heroes are immediate and although always eventually successful are human and flawed.

The book is in three sections, for it is divided into three sub-books, the first of which deals with a history of the Earth and it's growth of civilizations and their downfall, and the introduction of the real players in this scenario, the background controllers who use the planet Earth as their final stand against each other. Book two is short, covering the 20th Century wars, where the Arisians finally decide to make a stand against the meddling of the Eddoreans. This as Humanity reaches the first nuclear tests and the old 60's 'Ban-the-Bomb' movement rears its head in Doc's writing, as the realization that nuclear weapons could destroy the world. Book three is the story proper and sets up the Inter-Systemic Treaty, the Arisian's existance becomes known by the Eddoreans and a beginning of the timeless conflict between these powers of the universe. One in which the Humans will be involved in a major way.

The Arisians remind me of the superior types, lofty and romanesque in style, but typical of god-like beings encountered in Star Trek, the original series. The Eddoreans are more Cthonic. Their evil totality, their shapeless forms are of nightmare proportions, almost straight from Lovecraft's visions, but unlike the Old Ones in the Cthulhu mythos, these are concerned with the doings of mankind and of all other possible challenging races.

The Earth's greatest police force, The Special Services, are like a body of Buck Rogers', stalwart, white-suited, lady cowering behind them as they protect the innocent against the forces of evil with ray-gun in hand. Doc does one more twist to his characters before allowing them full success however, he manages to give the feeling that these exceptional men (and women just), are still normal people, they are slightly flawed as the rest of us but are so determined to be good they prevail against all setbacks. Also the common squeaky clean image of the aforementioned Mr. Rogers, is somewhat dulled by the necessity to don battle suits and have their weapons built into their suits, the heroes here are first of all scientists, Luke Skywalkers second. The space craft of this universe are leviathans, titans, fast, unstoppable, but without the clean, sharp designs of more modern writers of space craft, they also fire all manner of weapons: energy beams, rockets, torpedoes, bombs even gas attacks are all used as needed. Much is made of shields and defense barriers. I wondered while reading if this is the sort of book that Gene Roddenberry had read.

All in all a damned good read, midway between Asimov's Foundation and Harrison's Deathworlds.

Enjoyment: 7, Depth: 7, Readability: 5, Layout: 5, Value: 5.

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Last updated: 12th December 2000