The Lensman Series: Introduction and Triplanetary
For my first audiobook I chose Triplanetary by Edward E. Smith, the "first" book in the Lensman series. Lensman was first brought to my attention by my local Blockbuster video back in the summer of 1994. I was just getting into the whole Japanimation thing and by this point I've rented most of the "Action Animation" section. I was looking in the 'videos for sale' section and I came across Streamline Pictures' Video Comics™ release of the 1984 Lensman feature. This was the first Anime I have ever purchased. Up until that point I was renting tapes and recording them. Yes, I was a horrible video pirate, please turn me in to the MPAA.
The Lensman Anime movie was the first directing gig for an up and coming Yoshiaki Kawajiri, the know, that crazy guy who directed Wicked City and Ninja Scroll. The movie itself was very conservative in comparison to the bat shit insane stuff he would do later, but it was still entertaining.
Triplanetary was originally a series of short stories published in Hugo Gernsback's Amazing Stories magazine back in the 1930's which had nothing to do with Lensman. Smith really started Lensman with Galactic Patrol several years later. Confused? Good.
Lensman originally consisted of Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensman, and finally Children of the Lens all of which Smith wrote throughout the 1940's. In the early 1950's Smith revised Triplanetary to be the origin of the universe, revised the original Lensman books and wrote a prequel to fit between Triplanetary and Galactic Patrol titled First Lensman so that they all fit together as one series. This might have paved the way for assholes like George Lucas but let's not get into that.
The first half of this book covers the back story which I assume is what Smith tacked on for it to fit into the Lensman universe. Billions of years ago our Milky Way Galaxy and another Galaxy passed through each other. As a result two ancient and powerful races came into contact with one another. From the Milky Way was the peaceful and wise Arisians and from the other galaxy the power-hungry and ruthless Eddorians.
Upon their first direct contact the Arisians realized that they could not coexist and erased the Eddorian's memory of them ever meeting. Arisia knew that they were not capable of taking out such a powerful foe and set forth to create a weapon capable to do the task, the Galactic Patrol. At the same time Eddore began their methodical invasion of the Milky Way.
The Arisians set forth massive eugenics projects among the life supporting planets, indirectly grooming the native species to fit their needs, and focusing on a few bloodlines which would later produce the main characters of the later books. The Eddorians on the other hand manipulated intelligent beings and stifled civilizations from advancing to higher levels of mental awareness.
After this basic run down of the Arisian/Eddorian relationship the book goes into five stories of the male Kinnison and the female red-haired/gold eyed female bloodlines covering the destruction of Atlantis, a failed assassination attempt on Nero, and World Wars 1,2,& 3 all of these events representing Eddorian attempts at stopping human development. The World War 2 story of a munitions expert is of some interest because some feel it was a semi-autobiographical story of Smith's own experiences during World War 2.
This part of the book usually causes people to nod off and lose interest. But what draws my attention is the detail Smith carries out in his world building he left no stone unturned in his explanation. The 5 stories of the human bloodlines were the payoff to the somewhat drawn out exposition of the Arisians and the Eddorians.
Now the book moves on to what was originally published in Amazing Stories before the retconning into Lensman. The story is now set in the near future with man branching out into space and colonizing Mars and Venus thus creating the Triplanetary League, before faster than light travel was possible.
The actual story of Triplanetary deals with the adventures of super spy Conway Costigan and his battle against the Space Pirate known as Gray Roger (who was really an Eddorian all along!) and the abrupt "power up" battle with the Nevians, an Alien race who was in need of Iron and possessed faster than light travel. The conflict and eventual alignment with the Nevians resulted in humanity obtaining faster than light travel and more powerful weapons which Costigan and the Triplanetary Secret Service was then able to use on the Eddorian-controlled Gray Roger in the climatic battle.
Triplanetary would also introduce red haired/golden eyed Virgil Samms and Roderick Kinnison who would play bigger roles in the following book First Lensman. Sams and Kinnison were the heads of the Triplanetary Secret Service. After the defeat of Roger, Samms began to formulate the ultimate defense force, the Galactic Patrol. Just as planned.
While the human (and alien) characters were pulpy and not all that deep the real stars of the book was Inertialess drive and Ultrawave technology. Larry Niven, Issac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein would later use these fictional technologies, or variations of them, in their books. What I also enjoyed about this book was the grand scale and the battle between opposing Godheads. I like how the interactions be it conflict or trade between the humans and the Nevians lead to innovation and refinements of both species' technology.
The real magic of Lensman, which Smith started with Triplanetary, is that while it is presented in the story it seems like a a lighthearted and pulpy tale of adventure, but then you look back over it or summarize it to a friend it sounds pretty insane. Anime, especially the older stuff, had this magical property as well, but in an even more severe fashion.
So let's break this down in very stupid colloquial.
So there's this spaceship right? And this bad dude named Gray Roger takes the ship. and the sole survivors prisoner. There's the first mate, the captain, and some chick. But wah.. the first mate is really a SPY named Conway! He totally uses his sweet ass secret spy gear to break him and his posse out. So they are like running away from the bad guy who's a SPACE PIRATE and is totally possessed by some old evil super alien from another dimension.Yeah that didn't work so well for Triplanetary but it'll work so much better for the rest of the series. They make a planet cannon that shoots out actual planets for god's sake!
Anyway, motherfucker steals a spaceship and while he's running away from the bad guy's huge ass spaceship, they are all of a sudden attacked goddamn aliens, FISH ALIENS with 4 ARMS AND 4 LEGS! They take Conway and his runnin' crew's shapeship and shoots the space pirates' ships with some crazy pink light that takes away all the iron and the bitches are all left naked in space with all the iron in their blood sucked out like MAGNETO or some shit!
So the crazy fish aliens don't have iron and they have a dude searching for it and he finds a fuck ton of it in the middle of space. He sees some kind of aliens using it and he's like "punk bitches can't hang" and snatches their shit and kidnaps a few for the crazy fish alien zoo.
So being a spy and all he spies the fuck out of the Aliens and beams x-ray pictures of the Alien technology back to Earth. While all of that is happening the Aliens send a spaceship to Earth and DESTROYS PITTSBURGH! So Conway's boss who's like the head of fuckin' space ninjas inc. sends the spy photos to his mad scientists who start making a totally sweet spaceship to kick the stupid space fishes' asses.
Now our hero is stuck in a glass room all bored and shit having all these fish people looking at him. While he's sitting in his cage he uses his crazy spy ray to study how they drive their cars and spaceships and stuff. He acts depressed and bored the fish people give him his gear from his space ship so he can pass the time. He makes poison, breaks out of his cell and KILLS OFF AN ENTIRE CITY.
He gets in a spaceship, WIPES OUT 2 MORE CITIES to free his friends and they fly back to Earth with the aliens hot on their trail. Halfway home they meet up with the new bad-ass Earth ship and they fight the Aliens to a draw. The Aliens are like "oh sorry dawg you people are all smart and shit, we cool, we don't value life and all that, lets trade stuff and be all you know indifferent and shit."
So after getting the hook up of Alien technology. mankind thinks things are cool, but Gray roger comes back bigger and badder than ever because you know because he's possessed by evil super aliens and shit. But, he didn't know the Earth got even stronger from all the dope shit they got from the fish aliens. So they kick his ass until he's dead, Conway and his girl make out and they live happily ever after.
Next time on 'Superdeformed's Journey into Science Fiction' ... The rest of Lensman