Fiction Reviews

Grey Lensmen

(1950/ 2019) E. E. 'Doc' Smith, Gollancz, £8.99 / Can$17.99 / US$14.99,
pbk, x + 269pp, ISBN 978-1-473-22471-1


Somewhere among the galaxies is the stronghold of Boskone - a network of brilliant space-criminals whose hunger for conquest threatens the continued existence of all known civilisation. But where is this stronghold? Boskonian bases are scattered across the universe - hidden by gigantic thought-screens that defy penetration. The best minds in the Galactic Patrol have tried. And failed.  Now it is up to Lensman Kim Kinnison, using his fantastic powers, to infiltrate the Boskonian strongholds, find the location of the enemy's Grand Base - and smash it forever. But Kinnison doesn't know that the power of Boskone reaches further than anyone dreamed - into the Galactic Patrol itself…

Here we go, with the fourth, or the second of E.E. “Doc” Smith’s 'Lensman' series depending on your viewpoint and how you regard the first two books of the series, reissued by Gollancz under the banner “Golden Age Masterworks” with an introduction by M. R. Carey. Smith wrote several series when he was alive, and is probably best known for the 'Skylark' series and the 'Lensman' books, although looking at his bibliography at the front of these books he also seemed to write two more series with other writers in the 1970s and 1980s, a neat trick for someone who died in 1965. While the 'Lensman 'series takes place over seven books, the best of them concern the exploits of Kimball Kinnison, a super space operative fighting on the side of the Galactic Patrol and bearer of the lens – which gives him the power of telepathy, and other things. All of this is the result of genetic meddling by the Arisians who use the Lensmen in their fight against the evil Eddorians, who are just, well, horrible, although Kimball is more concerned with his on-going battle against the Boskonions, and stopping their drug-trafficking of the deadly drug Thionite -which is another neat trick, although this time from the point of view of the baddies as Thionite can only be found on a planet controlled by the Lensmen, so how are the bad guys getting it, and surely it should be easy to cut off their supply at the source, but just as well no-one ever thinks about this, or their would no highly entertaining and OTT (over-the-top) adventures – how OTT? Well, this time Kimball encounters a planet which can travel at the speed of light (!!!!) to avoid Boskone attacks.

While, this is typical Smith and typical Lensman with a tit-for-tat intergalactic arms race going on, we also delve into the conflict between the benevolent Arisians whose have spawned most life in the universe, even if it sometimes involved eugenics and selective breeding. However, life would be a whole lot simpler and a whole lot nicer if it wasn’t for those dastardly and downright horrible Eddorians who have come from another place. Our hero, Kimball realises that something is afoot as the Boskonions send a signal into deep space while the Galactic patrol are laying waste to their main base. Why are they doing that, where is the signal going, and who is at the other end? Kimball has to find out in a mission that involves much deering-do, going undercover and shooting from the hip, and the lip as Kimball encounters the dreaded Eich (anything to do with the Reich, who were around at the time of writing, I wonder?) in a tale that features massive space battles that are over almost as soon as they began; clunky, archaic dialogue, loyal sidekicks; and the development of a love story that started in the previous book; oh, and a no prisoners policy, so don’t bother trying to surrender, or trying to avoid reading this book.  Reader, you’re probably already hooked.

Ian Hunter


[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]

[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]

[Updated: 19.9.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]