I’d like to preface this by pointing out that this book was first serialized in 1965. I know that doesn’t mean much to a lot of SF readers who assume that everything old is “bad” and everything new is either fresh, progressive, or in some way worth reading, and who balk at the minor suggestion to dip into the vintage pond occasionally, if only to gain a new perspective on the modern things they’ve been reading and perhaps expand on the historical timeline we have in our heads, but reading old SF will at least confirm that yes, a lot of old SF is not very good, though for a variety of reasons and to varying degrees, but it will also likely demonstrate that it isn’t much different from a lot of the stuff being churned out and popularized today.
The thing is, this story feels like it should have been published in the 1930s. Although the ‘60s gave us plenty of stilt and cringe, it’s a different kind of stilt and cringe, and Skylark Duquesne just isn’t that, er, hip. As Doc Smith’s final installment in his decades-long Skylark series, the story style doesn’t mature along with its fans (assuming they matured) and the rest of SF, but I guess fans were fine with it because it was nominated for a Hugo award (never a sign of quality in any year, as you know from my constant bitching, but this one feels more like a retro Hugo contender, i.e. an old fan favorite based on unreliable, fuzzy memories and childhood sentimentality). Continue reading