The Galaxy Primes
Reviewed date: 2011 Feb 16
Here's another Doc Smith story that shows off all the problems and none of the charm that his writing can bring. Skip this one unless you're a devoted Doc Smith fan.
Pleiades is an experimental spaceship with a brand-new kind of intergalactic engine called the Gunther Drive. It works, except nobody has a clue how to steer the thing. So the Galaxian Society picks the four best specimans of humanity--two men and two women--and wish them luck.
Our heroes are not only perfect physical specimens, but have the highest ranked mental abilities according to the Gunther scale: Cleander Garlock and Belle Bellamy are Gunther Primes; Jim James the Ninth and Lola Montandon are Gunther Operators. If their combined brainpower can't figure out how to control Pleiades, their job is to find a nice planet and play Adam and Eve to a new race of humanity.
The crew spends half the book flitting aimlessly from one random planet to another, all of which are populated by Homo sapiens and defended by curious aliens called Arpalones. The Arpalones protect the planets from attack by strange creatures from outer space. It's all terribly dull and contributes nothing to the plot, but it does give Doc Smith an opportunity to throw in some hamhanded political commentary.
Eventually the addle-brained geniuses discover what should have been obvious: the Gunther Drive can only be controlled by the mind. If they just concentrate on where they want to go, the Gunther Drive will take them there. Duh.
So instead of returning to Earth and announcing their success, the crew of Pleiades decides to scour the galaxy looking for other Gunther Prime brains and convince them to join a new galaxy-wide Galaxian Society. They discover that each sufficiently advanced world has exactly two Gunther Primes: a man and a woman. The logical course of action is for each pair of Primes to get married and produce a Double Prime baby, so that's what they do.
And finally, Garlock mulls the puzzle of why so many millions of planets are populated by identical human races. The answer: the entire universe is a single being; galaxies and planets are the cellular level: Arpalones are like the immune system, and apparently humans are some kind of important sub-cellular structure.
And all through the book, Doc Smith never stops reminding us about how extremely beautiful our heroes are, how little they wear, and how much they want to have sex with each other.