The Novels

A seminal pulp science fiction adventure series by acclaimed author E.E. "Doc" Smith. This series is credited with many things, including inspiring a whole genre of works as diverse as Green Lantern, Star Wars, and Babylon 5. They also feature a use of powered armor that predates even Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Sadly hard to find, they are being republished in omnibus edition by the Science Fiction Book Club. Unfortunately, they are listed in the wrong order.

Not unlike the Narnia series, publishers decided to re-order the books after he died, to make them read in chronological order. However, this is simply not right!--the chronologically early books (that were written later) reveal facts that are spoilers for revelations to be made in the chronologically later books, and rob the other books of some of their visceral impact when read first.

The recommended reading order for the Lensman books is as follows:

  1. Galactic Patrol
  2. Grey Lensman
  3. Second Stage Lensmen
  4. Children of the Lens
  5. Triplanetary
  6. First Lensman
  7. The Vortex Blaster

The term "lensman" also refers to the people that the books are about. Earth's greatest warriors, they are trained in mental discipline and granted a Lens--a powerful psychic amplification device created by a race of pacifistic beings from a higher plane. They fight to protect their world from space pirates and other threats. What surprises are in store for Earth as the battle rages?

The Anime

There is also an anime version of Lensman, which bears little resemblance to the book; the names are the same, but the events have been changed beyond all recognition to protect the innocent. The anime version is, ironically, very derivative of Star Wars...save that Star Wars did not feature a deejay with an uncanny resemblance to a desiccated Mr. T.

Fans of the book series regard the anime version as an abomination, a perversion of the ideals they hold so dear. It is true that the plot of the anime is mediocre and cliched, and it flat contradicts the books in several...well, no, in most places...but by itself, not compared to anything else, it isn't as terrible as it is made out to be.

But why is the anime version so far off the wall? According to the late Internet personality Gharlane of Eddore (not to be confused with the Lensman character of the same name)'s FAQ, it was because the Smith estate refused to allow the animation studio to make it faithful to the books. Yes, it sounds crazy to me, too, but they also insisted that a later comic book adaptation must also be set within the anime continuity rather than that of the books. So there you go.

(Note: I was later informed that there might have been some mixups or misrepresentation involved in the information source that claimed the Smith estate refused to allow the anime to be faithful to the books, and that in fact it might have been the other way around; the Smith estate sued the animation company after the movie was made.)

During the 1980s, the Lensman anime was dubbed and released to VHS by Carl Macek's Streamline Video.

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