BOOK REVIEW: Galactic Patrol, by E.E ‘Doc’ Smith

Publisher: Gollancz

Series: Lensman (#3)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 269

Publication Date: 09/01/19 (originally 1950)

Verdict: 2/5

 

In the distant future, the Galaxy is defended and protected by the Lensmen.

The pirates of Boskone have been growing in threat for years. But when a ruthless new leader emerges, their predation spills over into active warfare. The secret to their success is not just technology, but the fact that their base is hidden. The Galaxy’s best kept secret.

Kim Kinnison is a Lensman, fresh from graduation. In the course of his travels, he stumbles across the Boskone base. With armies massing on both sides, Kinnison knows he must act quickly. The fate of the Galaxy depends on it . . .

 

E.E. Smith’s work is often said to be the earliest example of the space opera genre. As such, it’s nice to see his works in print again, even if copyright issues mean the GA Masterworks line starts with the third in the series. However, from the first chapter, it’s obvious just how far the genre, and writing, has come.

Smith’s style is one I would generally describe as ‘enthusiastic.’ This is purple prose at its most purple, dripping adverbs like a waterfall. So much so that it’s almost hard to read. It certainly doesn’t flow as well as most modern authors, or even some of Smith’s contemporaries. I’m sure there are people who would love the florid stylings, but I am not one of them. And once you’re having that much difficulty reading, it’s hard to focus on the story.

And that’s a shame, because the story is good. Smith has a good hand on adventure, a real rollicking multi-planetary journey. there are clear lines between good and evil, and the heroes are almost without fault.  It’s very much the sort of pure-hearted fun a modern writer would be unlikely to get away with. Too simplistic, says the modern audience. Where’s the moral grey?

One thing i feel I should mention is M.R Carey’s introduction. The MAsterwork’s series often have these introductions. Annoyingly, they frequently contain spoilers, so if that’s something you’d rather avoid, you should read them as afterwords. Carey’s introduction to Galactic Patrol is spoiler-free, but I mention it because of its tone. Rather than a celebration of Smith, it comes off as overly defensive, pointing out all the flaws in Smith’s work. Lack of female characters (a valid warning for the modern reader), his ‘two-fisted heroes’ (again, worthy note for an audience more used to modern complexity). But Carey also criticises Smith’s ‘innate conservatism’. This struck me as out of place, more of a personal attack than a literary caution. It could be that, as a conservative individual myself, I am biased in this. But it still feels as though the Introduction goes out of its way to drive away potential readers. A most unusual choice indeed.

 

All things considered Galactic Patrol is unashamed pulp adventure, but you’ll have to get through the unusual writing if you want to get the most out of it.

One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Galactic Patrol, by E.E ‘Doc’ Smith

  1. Presumably M R Carey is innately Liberal and thinks everyone else should be too. Seriously , I like the Lensman books for all the reasons some modern readers do not , especially the heroes who are unapolagetically heroic .

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