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Triplanetary (1948)

by Edward E. Smith

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lensman: Chronological order (1), Lensman: Publication order (5)

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1,822439,538 (3.25)1 / 63
Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Science Fiction. HTML:

A "prequel" of sorts to the ever-popular Lensman series, Triplanetary offers some fascinating background material that sheds new light on the story arc. In the novel, Smith provides the origin story for the super-intelligent race of humanoid creatures known as the Kinnison line, as well as for the Triplanetary League, a political alliance among Earth, Mars and Venus.

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» See also 63 mentions

English (42)  French (1)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
The original stories were published in 1934, and later it was expanded and published in book form in 1948. One of the two prequels to the Lensman saga, since the core of the story begins with book 3 (Galactic Patrol).

"Doc" Smith was hugely influential and this was quite original stuff in the 30s. He was basically the inventor of grand pulp space opera sagas, and there are influences of this in Star Wars, for example. The style is energetic and full of action, and the ideas are big and, at the time, original. Two very advanced alien races: one benevolent and the other evil, are involved in a fight lasting many centuries. The benevolent Arisians, working in secret, have manipulated several younger races to produce heroes who will take the lead in fighting the evil Boskone. We briefly visit old Atlantis and the two world wars, before getting into the main part of the story.

Quite old-fashioned, of course, but I'm fine with reading it in context. There are strong-jawed heroes and beautiful damsels who are not strong-jawed or physical fighters, but who are morally brave.

Unfortunately, the writing was a bit too clunky for my taste. I'm not expecting high literature or anything. I know it's pulp, but I have read old pulp that flows much better than this. As soon as we have a passage with fast action, we have another one with long, rambling sentences that slow the pace.

All in all, an interesting read, but I would probably not recommend it except to people who have a historical interest in the origins of pulp space opera. ( )
  jcm790 | May 26, 2024 |
Doesn’t age well. If this had been the first I’d read I would not have read another. ( )
  P1g5purt | Mar 26, 2024 |
It's sad that this is so dated as to be painful to read. The views of science, technology, government, gender, etc. are archaic, which is ok for period fiction, but not really for science fiction. ( )
  danielskatz | Dec 26, 2023 |
Probably one of the worst books I've ever read. The first half was stapled on in 1948 as a sort of prequel to the Lensman novels. The back half was the original story from 1934. Most fascinating is the anti-fascism fears mixed with cold war era fears as a result of being written at different times.

All that said...ugh. ( )
  hubrisinmotion | Nov 14, 2023 |
The pulp-era history of space opera is complicated, but E. E. “Doc” Smith is undoubtedly one of its icons. His Triplanetary is one of two prequels to the Lensman series. When its first version was published in 1934, the Buck Rogers radio series was in the middle of its run, and the comic strip had been out for five years. And, of course, the kid genius Tom Swift had been busy defeating bad guys with clever inventions since 1910. In 1948, a clunky, expanded fixup version of Triplanetary brought the beginning of the series into the Atomic Age. Reading the novel almost ninety years on, I was struck by the shifting style that veers from wartime slang to prose so purple it would make Bulwer-Lytton blush. At the heart of it all is the adoration of technology devoted to speed and power—especially force fields and beamed transmissions. Smith is especially fond of tractor beams, a term he may have coined as early as 1931.
Smith makes giant technological leaps seem easy. How about an inertialess tractor beam? “A tractor—inertialess?” Cleveland wondered. “Sure, why not?” Even fish, deep in the oceans of a distant planet, can do it because “those high-pressure boys were no fools.”
But my favorite bit of Smithian prose comes when the Nevians first appear in Tellurian space: “Space became suffused with a redly impenetrable opacity, and through that indescribable pall there came reaching huge arms of force incredible; writhing, coruscating beams of power which glowed a baleful, although almost imperceptible, red.”
Kids, they don’t write ‘em like that anymore. ( )
2 vote Tom-e | Oct 16, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Smith, Edward E.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Donnell, A. J.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foss, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattingly, David B.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Two thousand million or so years ago, two galaxies were colliding; or rather, were passing through each other.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Science Fiction. HTML:

A "prequel" of sorts to the ever-popular Lensman series, Triplanetary offers some fascinating background material that sheds new light on the story arc. In the novel, Smith provides the origin story for the super-intelligent race of humanoid creatures known as the Kinnison line, as well as for the Triplanetary League, a political alliance among Earth, Mars and Venus.

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