Skylark Duquesne (Skylark #4) (1965) by E. E. Smith

SkylarkDuquesneI’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

Galactic Patrol (Lensman #3) (1938) by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Galactic_patrol1Blinding blue blazes, if this book doesn’t clear ether, I’m going to!

It took me a week or two (maybe three?) to trudge through this serialized space opera about an honorable and righteous space police brigade that has the power to read minds. (Talk about a civil rights nightmare! Someone call the Galactic Civil Liberties Union!) I’m not sure how this novel would interest anyone other than an 11-year-old boy from the 1940’s, but that’s exactly why this series is so highly regarded. As boring as I found it, Galactic Patrol most definitely bears its signature on our most celebrated works in SF, as those 11-year-old boys grew up to become very popular SF writers and directors. Continue reading