Galactic Patrol (Lensman #3) – EE ‘Doc’ Smith (1938)
‘Terror of the Space Raiders!
The space-pirates of Boskone raided at will, menacing the whole structure of interstellar civilization. mater-minded by a super-scientist, their conquering fleets outgunned even the mighty space cruisers of the Galactic Patrol.
When Lensman Kim Kinnison of the Patrol discovered the secret Boskonian base, it was invulnerable to outside attack. But where a battle-fleet would meet insuperable resistance, a single infiltrator might penetrate the Boskonian defences – if he had the guts to take on million-to-one odds. Kinnison had guts enough to take on the odds – even with the future of the civilized Universe riding on his shoulders…’
Blurb from the 1982 Panther paperback edition
I fell in love with, and subsequently married this series of books in about Nineteen Seventy-Three and have never regretted the union for one second. In times of dark depression or darker British weather I dust them off, close the blinds, put the light on and set off with the Galactic Patrol across the galaxy.
This volume introduces the central figure of the Lensman series, Kimball ‘Kim’ Kinnison who – as the novel opens – is graduating from his training and is presented with his Lens, the lenticular crystal set in a bracelet which is attuned to the wearer’s psyche and acts as both an identification insignia for members of The Galactic Patrol and as a kind of amplifier of the psychic activity of the brain, allowing the wearer to communicate with alien species, read the minds of evildoers and keep in contact with one’s fellow Patrolmen.
Kinnison is soon knee-deep in adventure and alien entrails, on the trail of the drug-pedlars of Boskone and in the process teams up with Worsel of Velantia, the draconian multi-eyed future Lensman. Together they overcome the fearsome Overlords of Delgon (creatures who have powers of mental compulsion and feed on the life-force of the dying).
Pursued by agents of Boskone, Kinnison flees to Trenco where he meets Tregonsee of Rigel, another of the four beings destined to become Second Stage Lensmen.
Once again Kinnison evades capture and returns to Earth where the Boskonians are repulsed and their base on Neptune destroyed.
Following a lead to Aldebaran, Kinnison bites off a little more than he can chew with the Wheelmen, beings who have evolved into a wheel shape in order, no doubt, to get around faster. He is seriously injured and ends up in the Patrol Hospital under the care of Clarissa McDougall.
Realising that he needs additional training, he returns to Arisia for a gruelling mental workout with the formidable Mentor of Arisia.
Some time later, fully fit and now more adept at the workings of his Lens, he finally intercepts another transmission from Helmuth of Boskone and is able to triangulate the point of origin; a star cluster outside the main body of the galaxy.
Giving the drug barons – quite literally – some of their own medicine, he floods Helmuth’s dome with Thionite, the most addictive drug in the galaxy.
The base is taken, but Kinnison then realises that Helmuth was not the head of Boskone at all but merely an underling. The real head of Boskone is someone, or something, else and is far far away.
It’s one of the most enjoyable books of the series, fast-paced, tightly written and full of cliffhangers and moments of suspense. This is Pulp Fiction at its best, at times unknowingly camp, at other times fast, exciting, and inventive, packed with extraordinary evil aliens, unexpected allies, crusty eccentric Admirals and, above all, the rather quaint notion of Nineteen Thirties American society being in charge of the running of the galaxy.