My life in outer space

Second Stage Lensmen (Lensmen #5) – EE ‘Doc’ Smith (1953)

Second Stage Lensmen (The Lensman Series, #5)

‘Kim Kinnison, Number One man of his time, had faced challenges before – but rarely one as daunting as this. To him fell the perilous task of infiltrating the inner circle of Boskone, stronghold of galactic civilisation’s most deadly foe. Kinnison had to become a loyal Boskonian in every gesture, deed – and thought. he had to work his way up through the ranks of an alien enemy organisation, right into the highest echelons of power. Then it would be he who issued the orders – orders that would destroy his own civilization…’

Blurb from the 1973 Panther paperback edition

Kinnison’s wedding is rudely interrupted by Mentor of Arisia who enjoins him to ‘THINK!’ in big letters. The Patrol, of course, were a little premature in thinking that the forces of darkness (i.e. Boskonia) had been defeated.
Kinnison, having thunk, comes to the conclusion that the Earth will be attacked via hyper-spatial tube, and sets up defences in the nick of time. Then, following a zwilnik trail he discovers the planet of Lyrane, a matriarchy of powerful telepaths whose males are aggressive mindless animals.
Nadrek of Palain VII appears here, a character of whom Smith did not make enough use. As a child I was totally captivated by Nadrek’s outlook and philosophy, which was one of avoiding danger whenever possible.
Clarissa McDougall becomes a Grey Lensman and is posted to Lyrane to report on zwilnik activity.
There is another battle with the fiendish overlords of Delgon, some of whom are hiding out in Lyrane’s polar regions.
Kinnison, going undercover again, works himself into the retinue of Alcon of Thrale and eventually supplants him as head of Boskonian activities. However, behind Alcon of Prime Minister Fossten, who is revealed to be none other than Gharlane of Eddore.
What is interesting, given America’s recent policies on dealing with problems in the rest of the world is the Patrol’s idea of dealing with alien cultures.
‘Let’s civilize ‘em!’ as I think one of the military commandos puts it later in the novel. The US has, it seems, always been keen on forcing its culture on the rest of the world which, by the time of the Galactic Patrol, it has, since Earth has a world government which is very much US-controlled. Of course, one has to look at this from a historical and social viewpoint and not really expect Smith, revising and updating work from the Nineteen Forties, to be overly concerned with the future of the rest of the world, given that he considered his fan base to be young American men.
However, if one considers SF to be to a certain extent, the subconscious of the culture at the time at which it is written, it says a lot about the arrogance of US culture, an arrogance which sadly persists in some authors to this day.
The whole series, after all, is an ideological struggle between two cultural models, neither of which can tolerate the existence of the other. It doesn’t take Freud to work out what parallel models were in operation at the time.
It’s also worth noting that the Kinnison wedding is an unashamedly Christian one, the implication being that, with the exception of the alien Lensmen, all his human colleagues, family and friends are Christian also.
No Jewish Lensmen then?


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