Seaton's allies on the planet Kondal are suffering devastating attacks by the forces of the Third Planet. Even worse, the menacing and contemptuous Fenachrones are threatening to conquer the galaxy and wipe out all who oppose them. And don't forget the dastardly machinations of Seaton's arch-nemesis, DuQuesne, who embarks on a nefarious mission of his own. Against such vile foes and impossible odds, how is victory possible?
Hi-fi sci-fi: don't miss the rest of the Skylark series.
©1948 E. E. "Doc" Smith; (P)2007 Books in Motion
I grew up with a used paperback reprint of this book, and have no idea what it would look like to anyone else. It was a lot of fun when I first read it, and though listening to the audiobook is not as good as reading the book, it's still a good time.
How can I explain why? The writing is amateurish. Smith was just learning how, and you get just enough character differentiation to get you from Point A to Point B. The science is. well, dodgy is too small a word. Smith likes his luminferous ether, even though it had been discredited long before he wrote, and never believed Einstein, and you have space battles at distances of 200,000 light years. You get from one star system to another in a matter of days by accelerating at 1 G, though Smith concedes you need more to actually leave the galaxy. Two space ships are always going to bump into each other because space is just not very big. You pick up somebody else's technology by using a mechanical educator to pick the brain of a single crew member and then have a working model going in a month. All this with vacuum tubes. Just to make sure that you know that Smith has a scientific background, he talks about "negative acceleration" instead of just saying "braking," and the word "heterodyned" comes up in the conversation a lot more often than you'd expect.
But it works, and not in a "so bad it's good way." These are just foibles that you put up with, or actually enjoy in the way you do the quirks of someone you like. If you told me it's because the book appeals to that instinct to build bigger and better snow forts that will be prepared for anything, I probably couldn't dispute it, though I think other things are going on as well, such as a can-do spirit and a great delight in what is new and different.
For one thing, Smith is good company. He's vigorous and very imaginative, and he's very likable. Putting the book into context, it's somewhat in the spirit of the Tom Swift books or H. Rider Haggard. But it doesn't give you the sense of the white man going out into the world and showing the natives a thing or two. Rather, Smith's aliens range from being humanoid to being extremely different from humans, and it's a great pleasure to see how the humans and aliens love each other for their differences as well as their commonalities. In the first novel (which is pretty terrible) Seaton is in the position of John Carter of Mars, stronger than the Osnomians, but in Skylark Three, a couple of the species are stronger than humans, and one is the Fenachrone, who are the Nazis in the story. Seaton succeeds only because the Norlaminians are much more advanced than Terrans.
As for the narration, I found it patronizing and slack, and the voice characterizations were bizarrely inappropriate. While I hate writing something like that, McColm has a good professional background and could have done much better. If he had no sympathy for the material, he should have passed.
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