Second Stage Lensmen by E.E. "Doc" Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I'm reading this mainly because it's on the ballot for the retro Hugos for 1953 and, incidentally, I've read the fourth in the series already because it keeps being put on the "best SF ever lists". (I don't think it should be, but I may be a minority.)
I cringed a lot while reading this. Mostly I just went intellectual and pointed at all the Kirk-like alpha gets the alien girls swooning for him, the pleasure planets that pretend not to be (nudist planet of women, anyone?), or the equally cringeworthy ugly-factor for competent women.
Okay. This was pulp SF of '53. Have you SEEN THOSE COVERS? Like, ANY OF THEM? It's interesting to note which Golden-Age SF actually HAS scenes of naked women leaning up against silver spaceships both IN the text and ONLY on the cover. :)
Despite all this, Toots, I was actually rather surprised to find some BIG SF going on here. Maybe it's all cliché now, with Star-Trek tractor beams and boarding parties and pirates in space as well as deep infiltration tactics so wildly implausible that it could only be the work of Bond, James Bond, but let's put this in its proper place. The early fifties. This kind of thing is POPULAR. Add super super super powerful telepathic abilities and a weakness for the ladies, and we've got a square-jawed hero that later becomes the Green Lantern.
No. Wait. He was never the Green Lantern. Just as powerful as, perhaps, and as a Corpsman devoted to justice with uber powerful aliens using these gene-sports as their proxy weapons...
Oh, wait. Well. Never mind. This is STILL 1953 and no one takes SF seriously. Except those who do. And those who did, back then, ALSO found a lot of decent and exciting action and adventure with super-heroic and courageous derring-do right here in E. E. "Doc" Smith's work.
I didn't hate this. I did want to tear my eyes out for the first quarter or so. Certain depictions. But once we went into the whole infiltration of the baddies' empire, using telepathy to cloud the minds of all the aliens to make them think he was one of them, I was pretty much hooked and rocking along.
The good. The bad. The action is always pretty awesome. Think Star Wars meets Babylon 5 meets Pirates of the Carribean. Add James Bond with the powers of Voldemort. It can be VERY FUN, too!
All in all, I'd have to give it a 5 star on the one and a single star on the other. If you read this, manage your expectations and you might have a grand time or just find so much fodder for your ire that you'll have a different kind of a good time. :)
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