by David A. Kyle
Series: Authorized Lensman Trilogy 3
Reviewed date: 2016 Dec 21
Rating: 3
256 pages
cover art

E.E. "Doc" Smith's famous Lensman series introduces us to three non-human Second Stage Lensmen. David A. Kyle's trilogy of books follows their adventures. Z-Lensman is the story of Nadreck, the frigid-blooded poison-breathing Palainian. But like the previous book, Z-Lensman focuses less on Nadreck and more on new characters: Benson Cloudd and Lensman Dick Armstrong.

The bulk of the story takes place shortly after Second Stage Lensman. Civilization faces existential threats on multiple fronts:

  • The Robot Revolution: Galaxy-wide equipment malfunctions are affecting all Patrol systems. Kinnison says they have lost contact with as much as 10% of their forces, and posits this is a precursor to an unknown invasion.
  • Bosko-Spawn: the Spawn of Boskone have amassed a new fleet to destroy the Galactic Patrol.
  • Eichwooren: ghosts of dead Eich are preparing a psychic attack on the Lensmen.
  • Datadrones: the mysterious datadrones that Cloudd investigated in the previous book (Lensman from Rigel) make a reappearance, this time as a massive fleet poised to invade the First Galaxy.
  • Dregs of Onlo: on a smaller scale, Nadreck himself is being targeted for assassination.
  • Traitor Lensman: there is a highly placed spy in the ranks of the Patrol.

Nadreck finds a clever solution to the equipment malfunction. Because the abberations affect only mechanistic systems, Nadreck drops by a Bug planet and collects a few million tiny hive insects. He places one into each switch of each piece of critical Patrol equipment, across the entire fleet. Teams of sensitive Lensman monitor the bugs, and can determine when each bug's switch is malfunctioning. The malfunctions cannot be prevented, but they can be accounted for and worked around.

The Spawn of Boskone arrive with their fleet: twice the size of the Patrol's Grand Fleet, and they have maulers and supermaulers. During the battle, it becomes abundantly clear that the Spawn are suffering the same equipment malfunctions and abberations that have plagued the Patrol. But without Nadreck's clever workaround, their faulty machines fail them, and they begin losing the battle.

At this critical moment, the Eichwooren unleash their psychic attack and incapacitate the Lensmen. With nobody monitoring the bugs, the Patrol is as helpless as the Bosko-Spawn. They will surely lose the battle. Fortunately, Nadreck and Chaplain General Chon, backed by the psychic power of millions of clergy, show up to beat back the Eichwooren and allow the Lensmen to resume their duties. The Patrol wins.

Meanwhile, Benson Cloudd has followed the datadrones toward Andromeda, where he discovers they belong to Arrow-22, the robot intelligence from the Velantian Planetoid of Knowledge (Pok). Arrow-22 is responsible for the equipment malfunctions: he wants to free mechanoid life from oppression and slavery, so he is giving machines free will. Cloudd negotiates a temporary truce. Later, Tregonsee convinces Arrow-22 he is mistaken, and Worsel (who Arrow-22 considers a god) commands him to move on to the next plane of existence. Mentor wipes most of this knowledge from everybody's minds.

Finally, Kalla Kallatra helps uncover the identity of the spy at Patrol headquarters: a dead Lensman whose body has been seized and animated by the Eichwooren. With help from the ghost of dead Lensman Deuce O'Sx, the Eichwooren are sent back to their plane of existence, and the door between the planes is closed forever.

What else? There is a bizarre chapter where Nadreck bops around the galaxy to find wedding presents for Kim and Clarissa. He poses as a drug dealer and arranges a meeting with Chak the Onlonian, to trade drugs for jewels. For Clarissa he procures a fantastically rare Heartbeat gem. Then he double-crosses Chak and captures him, to be delivered to Tellus. "Chak was Nadreck's special wedding present for Kinnison. Nadreck knew that for such a dedicated man nothing would be more auspicious for the happy occasion of his marriage."

1. Space Pirates Attack
Space pirates attack the Palainian Research Laboratory 5, where Dick Armstrong helps save the day.

2. Nadreck Accepts An Offer
Armstrong chats with Bovreck. Ymkzex is actually Gharlane, an Eddorian. Angzex is Brolenteen, an Arisian. Gharlane knocks Brolenteen off balance, and Nadreck leaps out of hiding to save the day. Brolenteen offers L2 training to Nadreck, who accepts.

3. The Weddings Gifts
Jarnevon is destroyed, the Eich are defeated, and Kinnison (posing as the Tyrant of Thrale) has killed Gharlane, and Boskonia's Grand Fleet is wiped out by the Sunbeam. L2 Nadreck bops around the galaxy to find wedding presents for Kim and Clarissa. He poses as a drug dealer and arranges a meeting with Chak the Onlonian, to trade drugs for jewels. For Clarissa he procures a fantastically rare Heartbeat gem. Then he double-crosses Chak and captures him, to be delivered to Tellus. "Chak was Nadreck's special wedding present for Kinnison. Nadreck knew that for such a dedicated man nothing would be more auspicious for the happy occasion of his marriage."

4. Cadets Show Their Mettle
Nadreck trains six cadets, and they use the Noyyonese of Togra (a Boskonian planet) as a test case. With subtle manipulation by Nadreck's cadets, the Noyyonese leaders vote to start a war that will destroy their planet. Then, Nadreck and the cadets pluck Archbishop Gronitskog (one of the few anti-war voice whom they were unable to influence) from the planet and give him a chance to leave Togra and come join Civilization as a resident advisor at the Patrol Academy. He accepts.

5. Reunion at The Circus
Nadreck drops in on Lt. Benson Cloudd at the Academy, and invites him to the Patrol lounge--The Circus--that evening. Cloudd shows up, and wonders why everyone of importance is there: President Haynes, Chaplain General Chon, Lalla Kallatra, Kim Kinnison himself! And Clarissa Kinnison, and Admiral Raoul LaForge. And he wonders why, despite being there for various silly reasons, nobody has any time to talk to him.

Then Nadreck invites Cloudd to the secret meeting that is the real reason everybody has gathered at the Academy. Kinnison reveals the terrible truth: all across Civilization, in both galaxies, some unknown force has been playing tricks with their machines. Communication, electronics, machines of all sorts are getting interference and "abberations." The upshot: "Our machines are playing funny tricks. Patrol communications are in shambles. ... [We've] lost contact with ten percent of our forces on the other side of this galaxy. ... This galaxy is about to be invaded by some, as yet, undetectable enemy."

6. Raiders from Nowhere
Lensman Dick Armstrong is on Rim Patrol, circling outside the edge of the galaxy. The ship is attacked by an unidentified swarm of hostile spacecraft. The enemy globes blast a hole and board the ship, killing passengers and crew. Armstrong lenses a desperate call for help to Nadreck.

7. Lensmen Get Their Orders
Cloudd manages to get a few moments with the robot Lensman Lalla Kallatra. She informs him that the malfunctions affecting Patrol equipment are also affecting her cyborg body. Further, she suspects this is related to the mysterious datadrones (as seen in the previous book, Lensman from Rigel) and that the datadrones come from a mech-planet connected to "Eichwoor, the ghost of Eichlan." So it's ghosts.

Cloudd interrogates Archibiship Gronitskog, the Noyyon priest from the planet Togra. He discovers evidence of Eichwooren activity on Togra. Those ghost Eich from another plane of existence have promised that "deserving Noyyonese would have other worlds to rule" when the invasion of the First Galaxy is completed. The invasion will begin in two days.

8. The Dregs of Onlo
Nadreck shows up and drives off the mystery fleet, rescuing Dick Armstrong and the crew of the freighter. Nadreck quickly deduces that this mystery fleet is neither Patrol nor Boskonian, and that its purpose is the complete eradication of both Civilization and Boskonia.

Meanwhile, Cloudd, en route to Palain VII, rescues a castaway floating inertialess in space. It is a trap: the castaway flips off his spacesuit's inertia-less field and used his intrinsic velocity as a weapon. Cloudd's spaceship is nearly destroyed. Nadreck believes the trap was laid for him, by the Dregs of Onlo. Now there are five distinct threat facing Civilization: the newly organized Spawn of Boskone; the ghost Eichwooren; an unknown Tellurian influence; the Dregs of Onlo, and the mystery datadrone fleet that Armstrong encountered beyond the Rim.

9. Death Answers the Prayer
On Palain VII, Cloudd lectures the graduating Z-Lensman about the datadrones. Later, Chaplain General Chon talks religion with Cloudd. When Cloudd, Chon, and Nadreck interview Archbishop Gronitskog again, Nadreck gets very near to uncovering some vital information. Unfortunately, a mental barrier in Gronitskog's mind unleashes a post-hypnotic order that prevents him from revealing what he subconsiously knows. When Gronitskog prays for strength, he reaches out and contacts the Eichwooren, who immediately immolate him to protect their secrets. Gronitskog dies instantly.

10. The Forbidden Galaxy
The Second Stage Lensman prepare for the various imminent attacks: the Robot Revolution, the Eichwooren invasion, and the mystery datadrone fleet. Lalla Kallatra's body malfunctions, and Worsel transplants her into a clone body he's been preparing. Cloudd breaks all regulations and heads straight for the Andromeda Galaxy, which he believes is the source of the datadrone fleet.

11. The Stolen Star
Somebody steals a nursery planet from the Cahuitans (the vortex beings from Masters of the Vortex) and uses it as a weapon against the Patrol, apparently destroying Kinnison's fleet. Meanwhile, on his way to Andromeda, Cloudd encounters a small contraterrene (antimatter) nebula. Hidden behind it is an artificial planet: the source of the datadrones!

12. Hunting the Mech-Planet
Medury of Cahuita contacts Neal Cloud via Lalla Kallatra, and the four L2 Lensmen join in conference. Medury rescues the nursery planet from the Spawn of Boskone, leaving Kinnison's fleet unharmed.

Cloudd explores the artificial planet and discovers that it is A-22, the machine intelligence that escaped the Planetoid of Knowledge. A-22 is gathering all knowledge in the universe and it preparing to make it freely available. But first, A-22 intends to free all machine life from their slavery.

13. The Battle of the Rim
Kinnison stumbles upon the Spawn of Boskone's fleet. It's twice the size of the GP fleet, and they've got maulers and supermaulers. But the Boskonians are experiencing the equipment glitches, and are unable to compensate as the Patrol has managed to do. So, uncoordinated and flailing about with erratic communications and malfunctioning computers, the Spawn of Boskone is losing. But then the Eichwooren launch a psychic attack directed at the Lenses worn by each Lensman. As many as half the Lensmen are temporarily disabled, hobbling the GP fleet. Nadreck comes to the rescue: with Chon's help, he harnesses 937 chaplains and millions of clergy, who pool their energy and block the Eichwooren.

14. The Call of the Lens
Cloudd negotiates with Arrow-22. On his way back, Mentor wipes his mind of the forbidden knowledge he has learned about the Andromeda galaxy, and invites him to Arisia to receive his Lens.

15. The Dance of Death
At the victory ball, Tregonsee reveals to Cloudd that there is a traitor in their midst. While the people dance, Nadreck, Tregonsee, Lalla Kallatra, and Cloudd identify the traitor, entice and entrap the Eichwooren, and end the ghostly threat once and for all.

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