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Reviews of Triplanetary (1934)

Review by brad (2005-07-15)
This series comprises the following books:

1 - Triplanetary
2 - First Lensman
3 - Galactic Patrol
4 - Gray Lensman
5 - Second-Stage Lensman
6 - Children of the Lens

Without exaggeration, the "Galactic Patrol" series is one of the greatest classic space epics ever written, it's one of the greatest archetypes of the genre as a whole, and virtually all of the modern masters of the genre have paid open homage to it.

Originally appearing as a series of pulps in "Astounding Science Fiction" magazine back in the 1930's & 1940's, and later re-published in 1948 with several new introductory chapters added to the front of Triplanetary (book 1), this series, along with the other great classics of the day (Flash Gordon, and John Carter of Mars) influenced an entire generation of readers, some of whom later went on to become Masters of the genre in their own right.

* The hit series Babylon 5, for instance, is a direct homage to the Galactic Patrol, and is very loosely based on it (re: Vorlons vs Shadows = Arisians vs Eddorians, Rangers = Galactic Patrol, etc.)
* Star Wars too, is an indirect homage to early Sci Fi pulp action tales like GP.
* Gene Roddenberry, in all probability drew deeply from this series for inspiration, when he created the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek.

Although few people seem to make mention of it today, the Galactic Patrol tales USED to be omnipresent back in the 50's - radio shows, product tie-ins, kids playing 'patrol' in their back yards, you name it. It was essentially the Star Wars of our parent's and grandparent's generation.

Galactic Patrol successfully combined the best aspects of several genres:

* ACTION/THRILLER: the heroes and villains alike are all 2-fisted hard charging lead-from-the-font types, and the pace of action is relentless.
* MELODRAMA: Classic period dialog, straight out of the 20's 30's & 40's. Perfect fodder from the golden age of radio ... chock full of exclamation marks and purple prose.
* EPIC/ADVENTURE: Wide eyed wonder on a grand scale, replete with hard science and bug-eyed monsters.

What more can you ask for ?

Sure, a lot of the science doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, and the male/female gender roles are a bit dated by today's standards, but who cares ? That's all part of it's charm. Besides, this is all about high drama, action adventure, and pure concentrated escapism. These are the sort of books you read when life has you down, and you need to get away from it all, to a world where the action is fast, the rewards are immediate, and where the good guys win in the end, against impossible odds.

Review by dd-b (2003-03-25)
Triplanetary was written late in the history of the Lensman series. It's back-story on the war between Arisia and Eddore on Earth. There's a series of stories set in Earth history (Atlantis, Rome, WWI, WWII, and WWIII), and then a future story featuring some characters that overlap with the real Lensman series.

It's uneven. But the Rome story has one of the single greatest lines in fiction (if read in context), the WWI story is good, and the WWII story is a gem. I'm pretty sure it's autobiographical to an extent, covering Smith's work in a munitions plant during WWII.

Unfortunately, the longest piece in the book, "Triplanetary", is also one of the weaker ones.

Don't start your introduction to the Lensman series here. If you read and liked the lensman series, read this and have fun with it.

©Steven Jeffery /, 2017
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