Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Galactic Patrol by E. E. Smith

1939 Retro-Hugo Award Nominee Galactic Patrol by E. E. "Doc" Smith (Astounding Stories, February 1938).

Some spoilery thoughts behind the link.


The beginning of the book cracked me up. Congratulations, Graduating Class! You are the Elitest of the Elite. Here, in this secret room no man can know until he makes it through this grueling course of study, I give you, EXPOSITION!!

Not very far into the exposition, the similarities to what I know of Green Lantern were growing stronger and stronger, so I went to my comic-loving husband to ask which came first. The Lensman books heavily influenced Green Lantern, which started up a couple of years later.

The incorruptible Elitest of the Elite are granted a "Lens" by a mysterious super-advanced race. The Lens is usable only by the person for whom it was created, and grants its wearers some special powers (nothing like the Lanterns, though). "Lensmen" from many different worlds and races form the Galactic Patrol, which fights the powers of evil and corruption throughout the galaxy.

In Galactic Patrol, we follow Kimball Kinnison, a newly graduated Lensman, top of his class. He is given command of a brand new prototype ship, for reasons, and is sent out to try to acquire secrets from the bands of pirates who have been besting the Galactic Patrol at every turn.

I was very entertained at first, and I really wanted to like this book. This is probably why I had difficulty just putting it down and moving on. By about a quarter of the way through the book, it had lost me.

There is a lot of jargon in Galactic Patrol. I couldn't tell how much of it is 1930's jargon with which I'm unfamiliar, and how much of it was made-up futuristic space story jargon. It was a little off-putting, since often there wasn't enough context to be able to tell quite what they meant, so I found myself skipping over bits of story. Don't get me wrong - technobabble can be wonderously fun, but it has to give the reader something to latch onto.

This is a very action-y story, and it gets gruesome. The story is pretty much action scene to action scene to action scene with deadly peril at every turn. Very little is being said about the things that interest me the most - the Lens and the other cultures they encounter. And the other cultures we're encountering are mostly Helpless Before Our Heroes. We can't tell much about our protagonists, other than that Kinnison is completely incorruptible and heroic, and the Sergeant is some big Viking guy who is The Most Awesome Thing Ever, with his Big Space Axe. There's nothing I can really latch onto and relate to.

The premise with the dragon-creature didn't make a lot of sense to me. When they were on the Evil Planet, they were freaking out because opening the door of their shelter, or making any other kind of crack in the metal mental shield EVEN FOR A MOMENT would mean the doom of them all, because of the mind control of the overlords. Venturing forth would mean death. So.... how did the dragon thing manage to rescue Kinnison and the sergeant from the evil creatures on the cliff, then?

Also, the dragon friend knows nothing of the Evil Planet because nobody has ever come back from it alive, and yet when they go into the city on the Evil Planet to recharge their batteries, the dragon knows a lot of things Delgonian and so is the one to drive the car they stole since he knows the way the city works, and knows how to get them to the power plant, and knows that there are no windows anywhere in the building, and knows that the power plant also houses the city armory? Um.... What? No.

I got bored. Action-y stories annoy me a lot when they give me peeks at interesting things, and then either ignore them or make them make no sense. At a quarter of the way through this novel, I still wasn't able to find anything to thrill my imagination enough to make it worth slogging through the space axe slinging brains around everywhere. With time running out, I've put this book down.

Up or down ballot (note for myself): DOWN.

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