Readers of some of my other reviews may have gathered that I am no great fan of E.E. Smith's Skylark series of novels. But if I were pressed to name the best novel in the series, it would be the second, _Skylark Three_ (_Amazing, 1930; book form, 1948). It contains many of the faults of _The Skylark of Space_ (_Amazing_, 1928)-- stilted dialogue, corny humor, juvenal characters, and genocidal violence. But it is better plotted, and it has a lot of spectacles that are great fun: the dolphin people in their floating city of Dasor, the fantastic gardens and laboratories of the super-scientists on Norlamin, a plunge into the interior of a white dwarf star, and an edge-of-the-seat climactic space battle.
Gary Westfahl (1994) notes that good space opera can provide the reader with a sense of exhileration. There were two parts of _Skylark Three_ that did this for me. The first was in chapter four during a battle between the _Skylark_ and an alien dreadnought:
A brilliant orange light flared upon the panel, and Seaton gasped as he swung his visiplate upon his defenses, which he supposed impregnible. His outer screen was already down, although its mighty copper generator was exerting its utmost power. Black areas had already appeared and were spreading rapidly, where there should have been only incandescent radiance; and the inner screen was even now radiating far into the ultra-violet and was certainly doomed. Knowing as he did the stupendous power driving those screens, he knew that there were superhuman and inconceivable forces being directed against them, and his right hand flashed to the switch controlling the zone of force...
"They take one trick!" he blazed, his eyes almost emitting sparks as he leaped for the generators. (38-39)
Here is the second, in chapter ten:
Dorothy swept into "The Melody in F," and as the poignantly beautiful strains poured forth from that wonderful violin she knew that she had her audience with her. Though so intellectual that they themselves were incapable of producing music with real depth of feeling, they could understand and enjoy such music with an appreciation impossible to a people of lesser attainments; and their profound enjoyment of her playing, burned into her mind by the telepathic, almost hypnotic power of the Norlamanian mentality, raised her to heights she had never before attained. Playing as one inspired she went through one tremendous solo after another-- holding her listeners spellbound, urged on by their intense feeling to carry them further and even further into the realm of pure emotional harmony. The bell which ordinarily signaled the end of the period of relaxation did not sound; for the first time in thousands of years the planet of Norlamin deserted its rigid schedule of life-- to listen to one Earth-woman, pouring out her soul on her incomperable violin. (139)
_Skylark Three_ is not really a very good novel. But it is not really a very bad novel, either. And you may find a few exhilerating moments in it as well.