Before I begin rambling, I liked it. I recommend it to classic science fiction space opera fans. Triplanetary is the first of the Lensmen series by E.E. “Doc” Smith. A wonderfully successful series.
Triplanetary is Earth-centric in this galactic adventure. If memory serves (more on that later) the planets of the Triplanetary service are Earth, Venus, and Mars. It’s a shoot-em up space adventure with rather clear good guys and bad guys. There are a number of threats that are also lingering as foretelling.
The hero-saves-damsel-in-distress-and-falls-in-love is 1930’s contrived as are some Doc Savage-like escapes. You don’t know who Doc Savage is? Shame on you!
The book starts before the Earth is a molten ball of lava circling a newborn sun. Immediately you understand that there are two unbelievably super-powerful “races” who seem the only intelligence in two known galaxies✪, and the two intelligence’s touch briefly, at least psychically. A passing of thoughts in the vast, cold, darkness of space. You know from that point, there is a looming disastrous confrontation, but also know it is millennia in the future.
✪Before I really start rambling: At the time of this story was serialized in Amazing Stories the idea that there was more than one galaxy was still new and being hotly debated. By the time it was published as a book, Hubble’s discovery was widely accepted and Einstein was grateful to him so he could take his “fudge factor” out of the General Relativity Theory. When I was consuming Science Fiction as a youth in the ’60s, “Universe” and “Galaxy” were often still synonymous.
If I had read this book back in the library emptying days of “there’s never enough science fiction to read”, I would have been intellectually intoxicated. There were explanations of force fields, weapons, and power sources that would have thrilled me. Today, I was surprised that ol’ Doc Smith may yet have a thing or two going on to inspire scientist to creativity.
The primary story is an era where the “Sol” Triplanetary service is much the defender of this glorious solar system that has yet to hiccup and accidentally destroy all humanity.
I’ll be taking up the series as “Doc” Smith makes George R.R. Martin look a wimp at killing off fictional folks.
Spoiler Note 1:
Until forces outside of Atlantis take part in its destruction, One of the ancient
super-races who live eternities?↩
Spoiler Note 2:
Two things struck me about this book. One, which is difficult to ignore is that it is dated. Story 1934, book in the ’40s. I knew that before I started, so that wasn’t an issue for me. Also, when I was a younger person, I read these kinds of stories as fast as the library could stock them.
The second thing that struck me is how deeply curious I became if there’s a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. That’s easy to wonder about when you start reading, after a week or more break, and you’re over 100 pages into the book feeling like you’re right back “in” the story… then there’s mention of something from earlier in the book and you have to stop because your mind has hit a memory tornado, thoughts flying by with destructive force, and me knowing the important memory about the book that I’ve been looking for is somewhere in that dangerous whirlpool swirling around in my mind.
This fugue only lasted long enough to get lost wondering in my kitchen, then it came back. Arisia and Enddore! Ancient powerful super-intelligent and eternal races from Chapter 1.
I had returned to the book, after a couple weeks, in the middle of pirate troubles and learning that the lowly Mr. Costigan may be more that he appears to be. Then that tornado thrown memory slammed into my consciousness. Oh, yeah, this is a billion years later! And then I was truly back to actually understanding where I left off reading. I’m thinking that I should probably cut down to reading 2 or 3 books at a time instead of cycling through 7 or 8. The time between returning to books with 6+ books between readings strains my memory.↩