The Lensman Novels

The LENSMAN books are six novels written by E.E. "Doc" Smith over a period of thirty years, from the '20s to the '50s. They tell the story of the ages-long battle between the Arisians, beings of pure intellect, and the Eddorians, hideous invaders from another space-time continuum. Eddore erupts into our space eons in the past and begins its conquest of the universe. Arisia, noting that Eddore's psychology creates certain blind spots in their strategy, launches a massive effort to train the many races of the two major galaxies to develop their powers of the mind, so that they will not only rise to the same high level of mentality as the Arisians themselves, but eventually come to surpass them. And one of the most promising races is the young human race.

Arisia intervenes invisibly in millenia of human genetics, husbanding and perfecting two bloodlines, the dark-haired, dark-eyed Kinnisons and the redheaded, golden-eyed line known by various names throughout its tremendous length. There are Kinnisons and redheaded heroes in Atlantis, in Rome, and in our own civilization. Indeed, Kinnisons, father and son, perform sterling service in all three of the World Wars that ultimately wreck Western civilization. And when another civilization arises from the ashes, and contacts the inhabitants of Venus and Mars to form the Triplanetary Alliance against the Adepts of North Polar Jupiter, the Arisians are there, guiding and shaping their agents. Gray Roger, a seemingly immortal space pirate, is revealed to be an Eddorian in disguise, which prompts the Arisians to accelerate their plans. (Triplanetary, Book One)

When their redheaded bloodline reaches its zenith in Virgil Samms, a police commander in the newly formed Triplanetary Service, the Arisians reveal themselves, and bequeath to Samms the Lens, a device which focuses thought the way a lens focuses light. With his Lens, Samms can read minds, communicate with aliens, and see the truth in any form of message, however coded. The Lens makes him the ultimate policeman. But Arisia has far more in mind for Virgil Samms than mere police work, and soon he is creating the Galactic Patrol to battle the pirate conspiracy known as Boskone, which has tentacles even within Earth's own government .... (First Lensman, Book Two)

First Lensman, for this reader's money the best of the series, was actually written last, as a bridge between the 1920s novels Triplanetary and Galactic Patrol, both of which were serialized in pulp magazines. Actually, the "historical" segments of Triplanetary also appear to have been written after the fact, partaking as they do of the much more stripped-down, tense, mature writing style that characterizes Doc's later work. Turning the page from the World War III section of Triplanetary to the bulk of the novel, which features Conway Costigan's struggle against Gray Roger, is a jarring experience, as though two different authors were at work in the same shared universe.

The next novel, Galactic Patrol, picks up an unspecified number of years later, when the Galactic Patrol is a going concern and Kimball Kinnison, the absolute pinnacle of the Arisian improvement program, is graduating from the Lensman Academy on Earth. Kinnison is the hero of the next four novels, as well as the inspiration for countless other heroes in fiction, TV, movies and other media.

The Boskone Pirates have a new kind of ship that is faster and tougher than anything the Patrol can throw at it. So Kinnison is given a special ship, a picked crew, and a suicide mission: capture one of those Boskone ships intact, so the Patrol can discover its secrets! He brings home the bacon after a wild adventure in which he meets Worsel, a native of Velantia, and destroys the evil Overlords of Delgon who hold Worsel's race in slavery. In the course of his adventure, Kinnison learns the identity of the Boskonian supreme commander, and devises a clever plan to locate, and eventually destroy, him.

But Helmuth wasn't the top of Boskone, as Kinnison learns in his next book, Gray Lensman. Newly appointed an Unattached Lensman, who wears a distinctive gray uniform and, like the US Marshals of the Wild West, is answerable to no one else in the Patrol heirarchy, he investigates strange hints that perhaps there was some other agency in charge all along. He discovers the Eich, frigid-blooded poison-breathers who live in the Second Galaxy, a galaxy as rich as our own but immensely far away. The Eich capture Kinnison and torture him, but Kinnison has prepared for this eventuality and with Worsel's help, he has hidden his true personality behind a telepathically constructed false identity, and tells the Eich preposterous lies about the Patrol: one in particular, that there is a shadowy super-Lensman called Star A Star who gives secret orders to all his Lensman, fits in so well with the way Boskone is run that the Eich beleive it, and waste a great deal of time and effort trying to catch and kill a being who does not exist. Kinnison returns, is healed, and meets nurse Clarissa MacDougall in the hospital. By the time he recovers, he and Clarissa are in love, and after the Eich homeworld is destroyed by a newly invented Patrol superweapon, the negasphere, they are married.

The next novel, Second Stage Lensman, opens with an invasion of the Earth by the forces of Boskone, who after all are not defeated. The invasion fleet consists of entire planets fitted with engines and sent to smash the Earth, but a new Patrol weapon, the sunbeam, concentrates Sol's entire energy output on the invading fleet, melting it into vapor. Kinnison discovers that the entire Second Galaxy, not just the Eich world, is ruled by Boskone, and he infiltrates in disguise, eventually becoming the Tyrant of Thrale, one of the highest-up of Boskone leaders. Along the way, he visits Arisia again, where the Arisians open every compartment and channel of his mind for his inspection, allowing him to improve his mind to its highest possible pitch, becoming a Second-Stage Lensman. Of the thousands of Lensmen in the Patrol, only four have reached Second Stage, one from each of the four most promising races of the First Galaxy: Kinnison himself, Worsel, Tregonsee of Rigel Four, and Nadreck of Palain Seven. Each has a very different psychology, but their strengths correspond well with one another's blind spots, and by working together, they extirpate the Boskone conspiracy for all time.

Or do they? In what has now become a familiar refrain, it turns out there was someone above the Second Galaxy's Boskone after all: the mysterious planet Ploor. Twenty or so years after Second Stage Lensman, the daughters and son of Kimball Kinnison and Clarissa MacDougall, the Children of the Lens, investigate four separate lines of inquiry and learn the truth: that Ploor is but the final link in the chain leading to Eddore itself. They assist their father in defeating Ploor with another new Patrol weapon, the planet from another space where the speed of light is greater than ours, which breaks through into our plenum with literally infinite energy. Then the Children of the Lens unite the massed minds of every Lensman in creation to destroy Eddore with a mental bolt of sheerly irresistable poignancy, and finally, they rescue Kimball Kinnison from the distant exile to which Eddore has hurled him.

The galaxy is safe once more, and the Arisians depart, leaving Civilization in the capable hands of the Kinnison children, and their eventual descendants. The series is over ...

...or is it?

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