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Skylark Duquesne [Mass Market Paperback]

E. E. Smith
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Book by E. E. Doc Smith

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Smith Sizzles May 16 2003
Format:Paperback
Brilliant scientist Richard Seaton builds the first (many times) faster than light spaceship and travels the universe with a band of friends. Along the way he saves a race of aliens, helps decimate another, rescues his girlfriend and thwarts the misdoings of his arch rival Marc DuQuesne.
This is the first E.E. Smith book I've read and I must say that for the type of book that it is, The Skylark of Space isn't too bad. Think old school comic books. It has high adventure, a smart/strong/handsome protagonist, a loyal sidekick, gee whiz technology, an extremely evil bad guy, and pretty girls. For a large part of the book, the story is fairly interesting. Smith moves the action along quickly and provides a respectable amount of tension to the drama. Even though I knew everything would turn out fine in the end, I still wanted to know how Smith would accomplish it. At a short 159 pages, it was a quick and fun diversion.
The Skylark of Space is not, however, without issues. Many of them are given: flat, completely unreal characters, rigid gender roles, featherweight science, wildly campy. I won't fault the book for these sorts of things. It's a product of its time that targeted a specific audience.
What I do want to point out is that Smith treats war very lightly. Although this book was completed in 1920, Smith revised it in 1958. It's surprising to me that even though Smith had seen the effects of two world wars, mass destruction of life is a very casual act in his book.
For those of you who aren't already huge Doc Smith fans, you'll probably enjoy this book if you know what you're getting into. Understand that it doesn't hold up very well under careful (or even casual) scrutiny. But, for what it is, Smith wrote a great book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A gen-X perspective June 21 2002
By R D
Format:Paperback
I'm guessing a lot of folks who've reviewed these books experienced them in the original printings, prior to Star Wars and the mass-popularization of space opera. I didn't- I "discovered" Doc in the late-80's as a teenager, and have become a huge fan. But heed the warnings of "camp" and "cheese": if there were an MST3K of books, his would be regular fodder. The gender stereotypes and roles as well as the frequent commission (and implicit condonement) of genocide by the heroes in particular are very hard to get past for a modern reader. Character development is non-existant (all protagonists are basically Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts), dialogue is awkward and unbelievably cheesy, genocide is repeatedly condoned, and the fact that the books were originally written as serials is painfully evident (almost every chapter ends with a CLIFFHANGER!). If you are a conesseur of camp, these books are a *rich* source of material.
But what I love about Doc's books is not rooted in irony: the incredible creativity in visualizing advanced technology, fast-forward and entertaining action plots, and the sheer scale of the "build up" within each book and from one book to another.
Technology: Although very quaint by modern standards (especially in "Skylark of Space"), put in context the creativity Doc displays in envisioning future technology is second to none. Not in terms of "accuracy", but in terms of their self-consistency and imaginativeness. Skylark was written pre-television, pre-laser, pre-NASA, and pre-nuke. What Doc built from that base is incredible, entertaining, and fun, viewed from the perspective that even relativity was a comparatively new theory when it was written (Doc obviously knew about it, and chose to ignore it).
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3.0 out of 5 stars Ho-Hum Space Adventure June 13 2002
Format:Paperback
According to the introduction to this book, "The Skylark of Space" is the first "space opera" ever written. The story first appeared during the 1920's in the pages of "Amazing Stories," and was reedited in the 1950's by the author, E.E. "Doc" Smith. Smith went on to write other Skylark stories, as well as a few other sci-fi series. The introduction also calls attention to other themes in the story: the role of women in the sci-fi genre, the idea of manifest destiny, and the accuracy of predictions made in the story as opposed to real scientific development.
"The Skylark of Space" is entertaining. Of that there is no doubt. Scientist Richard "Dick" Seaton, during the course of mundane research at his government laboratory, accidentally discovers a new means of propulsion. Of course, no one at the lab believes him. Seaton then goes to his buddy Martin Crane, inventor and millionaire, for help. Together, the two begin to develop a spaceship using the new propulsion formula. The wily Marc DuQuesne, a fellow scientist in league with the evil World Steel Company, constantly undermines their plans in the hope of stealing the formula and making a fortune out of it. When DuQuesne abducts Dorothy, Seaton's fiancée, and flies her away on a second ship using the stolen formula, the hijinks begin. The characters end up uniting to face a host of spectacular space dangers. The characters, who use their wits and strength to great advantage, overcome black holes, hostile planets with weird animals, and a planet-wide war.
While the story is entertaining, the cheese factor here is off the charts. The story starts out well, but quickly descends into confusion and pure goofiness. The introduction stresses that the reader must suspend disbelief, but this is ridiculous.
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