My rating: 3 of 5 stars
First Lensman by Doc E.E. Smith. Read and simultaneously listened to in 2016 on 6/1 to page 71, on 6/22 to page 107, on 7/7 to page 211 and completed it on 7/16. I liked it. I recommend it to classic science fiction fans. This review includes the Books in Motion audiobook read by Reed McColm, who performed with excellence. I prefer doing both read and listen, old “learning trick” from college. Plus it allows you to do some things without the story stopping while you live life.
“First Lensman” is a story that follows incorruptible heroic space adventurer Virgil Samms as he attempts to establish a military or police force to protect the civilization from those who would rather have chaos.
The idea in the Lensmen series begins when a alien species, the Arisians, so unbelievably advanced from all races in two galaxies offer the fledgling Galactic Patrol a “lens” that gives them unnatural mental abilities, the most apparent of these being thought communication and mind reading. These aliens have their own reasons which is always in the background regarding another race of aliens nearly equal with advanced abilities who, to human standards, would be a race of Hitler Gods but as far as I could tell, in this book, that other super threat was largely irrelevant. The first to receive one of these “lens” devices is Virgil Samms who becomes the de facto leader of the Lensman.Each chosen to be a Lensman can go to Arisia only once in their life, to receive the lens where they are or are not given a lens. Eventually there is an elite force of Lensmen in the fledgling Galactic Patrol that is trying to gain acceptance as a protective galactic force.
In this book there are several obstacles, the primary two being internal politic resistance and externally a force of vigilantes they call pirates.
For the die hard Lensmen fans it would be blasphemy to claim this as the second book in the Lensman series with Triplanetary being the first in the series…. I read Triplanetary first. It won’t cause acne, reduce Virgil Samms to second Lensman, or even effect Roderick Kinnison’s political career.
This is an old classic series so a reader can expect that 1930s US attitude to prevail, but I was surprised that EE “Doc” Smith was able to avoid a great deal of the terribly obvious “ancient” writing. One example is the smoking. Most older classics have a character lighting up every other page. Not so much in this series.
The technology from these classic era books are so obviously ridiculous that you just grin and bear it as you enjoy the read anyway. With this book I didn’t have an overload of “grin and bear it” experiences. I’m not sure why. I think it is that the technical talk is rather convincing, much like Star Trek’s Heisenberg compensater for their transporter.
Many Science Fiction fans won’t touch the classics because much of this ‘era’ is unbearable since they get so much wrong. It is classic era so you’ll get some “ridiculous” here, but it is easier to suspend disbelief than similar books of this era.