Friday, 25 September 1998

E.E. "Doc" Smith: Galactic Patrol (1937)

Edition: Panther, 1977
Review number: 119

With the third of his Lensmen series, Smith introduces the man who will be the hero of the next four books - Galactic Patrol, Grey Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen and (to a lesser extent) Children of the Lens. Kimball Kinnison is the one for whom the Arisians have been waiting and working, the culmination of the human breeding programme they set up many centuries earlier. Galactic Patrol deals with the earliest stages of his career, from his graduation as a Lensman from the Patrol's cadet academy.

His graduation comes at a hard time for civilization. Organised pirates, known as Boskonians, have gained a great advantage in a new kind of space drive, making their ships far faster than anything the Patrol can build. That is, with the exception of one ship, the Britannia. New and experimental, she has abandoned the traditional ray armament of a space ship for an offence even older - explosive artillery, fired at an opponent held in place by unbreakable tractor beams. Her mission is to capture a Boskonian ship of the new type intact enough to get the secret of her speed (hence the artillery, which the scientists of the patrol think can damage another ship enough to disable it without destroying the information they want to have). Her experimental nature means that she would be useless to a man with the amount of experience normally required to captain a space ship, so she is given to Kinnison to command.

Galactic Patrol is science fiction of the old heroic, pulp fiction type, and is unashamedly so. It is immensly exciting if you can ignore the over-florid writing style; it is traditional comic book hero material as a novel, but great fun for all that.

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