Skylark Three – E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith
I opened up this book with the greatest trepidation. I have read some of his Lensman series with great distaste and didn’t really expect anything different from this one. I find his writing to be soap operatic and so full of technical stuff that I just can’t follow any of it. I also find the pace to be so headlong that I feel the need to read at top speed, making it distinctly hard to concentrate on anything at all. After a few pages I told myself I was in charge of my own reading and managed to slow down a bit and that helped a little. I also looked at the date of writing and got quite a shock. This particular copy was printed in 1974 but the book was originally published in 1930 and that made the most enormous difference to how I faced the book. Writing then was rather much different to the 1970s and the science was also vastly different. Instead of being just after the birth of space travel, this book was published decades before. Anyway, it only made a smidgeon of a difference, I still didn’t like the book.
The only piece I could pull out of it was a tiny bit of trivia. This book is about a group of people who go hairing off into space, find some aliens who are intent on wiping out absolutely every intelligent being in every universe they can find and then annihilating them. So, our protoganists are Martin Crane and Dick Seaton. Dick Seaton is arrogant, clever, brave and with extraordinarily fast reflexes and very much in love with his wife, Dorothy. Martin Crane is loyal, much more brainy than Seaton (he must be as we’re told this many times) and we presume, also in love with his wife. Why are these two women mentioned? They’re on the space ship with the men and are treated as appendages; they play music, they sing, they embroider and react with alarm to every situation…sorry, my feminist side just came out for a brief moment. The first notice they have of these aliens who want to destroy every intelligent being everywhere is when they are attacked. They manage to counterattack and take the captain of the ship hostage, but before being taken hostage the captain sends a rocket back to his world to inform them where he had found intelligent life. Seaton and Crane follow the rocket back to this world with many other adventures and having met and befriended other intelligent life only to find that the designation of the rocket was a “first degree emergency torpedo from flagship Y427W of fleet 42″. For those few people who don’t get the reference immediately, “42″ is the answer to the question of life, the universe and everything as postulated by Douglas Adams in his five part trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Was this where Douglas Adams got the number of 42? It could be, E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith is one of the most highly regarded science fiction writers, I am the only person I know of who doesn’t like his works, so it’s highly likely that Douglas Adams read this book.
Anyway, this is a BookCrossing book and will be released in due course as soon as I figure out a good place. I have lunch every so often with some book friends and will probably do it then. If you want to follow it’s journey the book ID number is 181-3846133 and you can follow it’s journey at BookCrossing.