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Triplanetary, by E. E. Smith
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Wildside Press
Published: 2007
Review Posted: 2/6/2008
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 6 out of 10

Triplanetary, by E. E. Smith

Book Review by Paul Weiss

Have you read this book?

Two civilizations, the Arisians and the Eddorians, old beyond imagining and evolved to the point where their mental skills alone command energy and forces that are unthinkable for lesser species such as humans from our beloved Earth or even the reptilian Nevians, battle for dominance of the universe. In Triplanetary, Doc Smith has left no room for doubt concerning the identity of the "good guys" versus the "bad guys". The Eddorians, quintessentially and unabashedly evil, have set themselves a modest but extraordinarily clear mission - "to tear down and destroy every bulwark of what the weak and spineless adherents of Civilization consider the finest things in life - love, truth, honor, loyalty, purity, altruism, decency and so on." The Arisians, of course, represent all of those virtues which the Eddorians are so bent on removing from the Universe.

Triplanetary is the grand-daddy of all space opera adventure novels - a non-stop, red hot action-oriented, plot driven space battle that is a positively orgasmic geekfest of techno-babble on steroids. One need only read a single chapter to envision the origins of the special effects in modern movie and television versions of Star Trek, Babylon 5, Andromeda or Battlestar Galactica. If you like your battles hot, your villains ugly and nasty, and your heroes manly (how could a hunk named "Conway Costigan" be anything but a two-fisted, steely-eyed man's man?), then you'll probably enjoy Triplanetary!

On this basis alone, Triplanetary is probably worth reading as the acknowledged progenitor of every space war novel that was ever written. One could even make a very strong case that Steven Spielberg, Gene Roddenberry and the entire world of special effects in visual media owe much to Smith's fertile imagination!

But does Triplanetary deserve membership in a library of what we now call science fiction classics? I think not. There is so much wrong with Triplanetary on the literary side, it's really quite difficult to know where to start.

Other than cartoonish heroic stereotypes, character development is negligible. Dialogue is stilted and the romantic interludes, in particular, are so trite as to be laughable. The raging purple prose is so positively brimful of superlatives and absolutes that one wonders how any progress was made at all, any goal achieved or any enemy defeated - barriers were impassable, obstacles were insurmountable, chances of success were only one in numberless millions, beams of destruction were relentless, forces were cataclysmic, objects were immovable, tractor beams were irresistible - well, it just got tiresome because this was the nature of the entire novel. Science, even as it was known at the time, was effectively ignored and technology in the novel crossed the line from imaginative into purely fantasy.

Recommended as a fast, enjoyable read from the standpoint of understanding the roots and growth of science fiction as a genre. But the novel has not stood the test of time and is weak gruel indeed compared to many of its contemporaries.
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Comments on Triplanetary, by E. E. Smith
Posted by Michael D. Turner on 2/15/2008
I read this, more than once over the years, and found it far superior to its contemporaries. This is pure pre-Cambell pulp S-F, and placed against its contemporaries, which you'd have to haunt the collector market to find, as very damn few are still inprint at all beyond Doc Smith's work, it stands out.
It is dated, all Smith's early work is. He was, after all, a full time Chemist and part-time pulpster for most of his life, and frankly was trying to supply more of what was already out there, only better.
This he succeeded in doing.
Posted by Pamela J. Dodd on 2/6/2008
I mentioned this book in the discussion forum under "the worst books I actually read," and I did read it due to the author's role in the evolution of science fiction. When the reviewer said that Triplanetary has not stood the test of time, that comment was an understatement.