Triplanetary – E.E. “Doc” Smith

The Lensman series is considered the mother of all space opera, and it all begins with Triplanetary, which is a series of three vaguely related novelettes, the first one concerning the fall of Atlantis. In the second one, a spaceliner is attached by a pirate. The pirate in turn is attacked by aliens intent on grabbing all our iron (no, really…) and a few corny heroes have adventures.

Many science fiction greats including Michael J. Straczynski to Peter F. Hamilton (who told me so personally) see the Lensman series as one of the main reasons they entered the field. My problem: I hated this book. The technology and science stuff very dated, but that shouldn’t stop a good story. Certainly Jules Verne is still good over a century later. In Triplanetary, there is no rhyme, reason or consistency. Our heroes always seem to have the correct device when they need it. This removes any sense of suspense. It feels like an old black and white Flash Gordon television serial. While that was good stuff when I was nine, now it just seems corny and silly. Yawn.

Inexplicably, the first edition that I sampled skips more than half of the original “Triplanetary”, which is not so much a novel as a collection of three novelettes, skipping directly to the middle one. There is also an unrelated Smith novel as the second half of this book. I have since found the original text but just as before I could not get through it.

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