Skylark Three – EE ‘Doc’ Smith (1930)
‘In this exhilarating sequel to The Skylark of Space, momentous danger again stalks genius inventor and interplanetary adventurer Dr Richard Seaton. Seaton’s allies on the planet Kondal are suffering devastating attacks by the forces of the Third Planet. Even worse, the menacing and contemptuous Fenachrones are threatening to conquer the galaxy and wipe out all who oppose them. And don’t forget the dastardly machinations of Seaton’s arch-nemesis, Du Quesne, who embarks on a nefarious mission of his own. Against such vile foes and impossible odds, how is victory possible?’
Blurb from the 2003 Bison Books edition.
Once more Seaton, Crane, Dorothy and Margaret set off across the galaxy following a visit from Dunark of Osnome. The Osnomians are under attack from a warlike race of the Third Planet in the Green System and Seaton’s help is needed if the Osnomian race is to survive.
However, the Osnomians and their enemies are forced to unite when the Skylark encounters a greater threat, the evil Fenachrone, humanoid reptilians who have a master plan to conquer the entire universe.
Seaton, employing his new ‘zone of force’ to slice up the Fenachrone vessel like an interstellar salami, then captures its Captain and using his brain-recording device, learns that the Fenachrone sent a message to their home planet before it was destroyed.
Seaton has only a few months to track down the older races of the Green system and learn the secrets of their technology in order to defend the galaxy against the evil Fenachrone.
Duquesne and his new henchman ‘Babyface’ Rawlins are for the most part absent from this book. They themselves have attempted to negotiate with the Fenachrone and are captured. They are thought to be dead by the end of the novel.
As usual this is a well-paced adventure, only slightly marred by some of the exchanges between Seaton and his wife, which read almost like a parody of an American conversation of the time.
There is a certain ‘cosiness’ to the Skylark itself, even to the fact that they bring along their cook, Shiro, to ensure that at least some of the customs of civilised life are adhered to.
Smith also here repeats his casual attitude to genocide. The Fenachrone are finally defeated and their planet destroyed, but it transpires that one ship escaped with a large number of Fenachrone families aboard, headed for a distant galaxy. Ruthlessly Seaton tracks them through intergalactic space and, after a climactic battle, destroys the last of them, thus having wiped out an entire species.
This concept is also revived in the Lensman books, since several races are wiped completely out, the premise being that since these races cannot co-exist in the same galaxy, one of them has to be destroyed.
Smith is at his best when describing his ships, the minutiae of their construction and devices and the terrible and awful forces they unleash. Even though there are intimations of what his future work would be like there is little here to suggest that Smith would go on to write the Lensman saga, possibly the definitive work of Space Opera of the Twentieth Century.
This Bison edition continues an introduction by Jack Williamson, a friend and contemporary of Smith’s who adds some personal reminiscences and insights. Smith’s much touted doctorate, for instance, was actually in Food Science where he specialised in doughnut mixes.
One lives and learns.