Second Stage Lensmen

by E. E. "Doc" Smith
Series: Lensman 5
Reviewed date: 2006 Apr 14
Rating: 3
271 pages
cover art
cover art

"Tell Bleeko from me to consider very carefully and very thoroughly an iceberg; its every phase and aspect. That is all--you may go."
"Bub-bub-bub," the big man stammered. "An iceberg?"
"An iceberg, yes--just that," Kinnison assured him. "Don't bother to try to think about it yourself, since you've got nothing to think with. But His Putrescence Bleeko, even though he is a mental, moral, and intellectual slime-lizard, can think--at least in a narrow, mean, small-souled sort of way--and I advise him in all seriousness to do so. Now get the hell out of here, before I burn the seat of your pants off."

There seems to be some confusion as to whether this book is Second Stage Lensman or Second Stage Lensmen. My current copy, a late 1960s Pyramid edition, has the plural form. The copy I first read (a mid-1970s Pyramid edition, I think, or possibly an identical Jove/HBJ reprint of the Pyramid edition) had the singular form. However, the original printing and the original serialization in Astounding had the plural form. So Second Stage Lensmen it is.

Despite the plural in the title, this book is mostly about Kim Kinnison, to the exclusion of the other second stage Lensmen. The others--Worsel, Tregonsee, and Nadreck--play their part, though. And speaking of Nadreck: the frigid-blooded poison-breathing Palainian Lensman is among my favorite characters in the whole Lensman series. It's too bad he doesn't get more of the spotlight.

Second Stage Lensmen is the most uneven of the Lensman novels. On the one hand it contains my favorite episode: Kinnison goes undercover as Traska Gannel and joins Boskonia as a soldier. He rises through the ranks until it is Kinnison himself who is Tyrant of Thrale, the supreme commander of the armed forces of Boskonia. On the other hand, there is my least favorite subplot: the matriarchal planet of Lyrane. "Doc" Smith simply can't write believable female characters, and his attempt to portray a matriarchy are painful.

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