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Lensman Books In Order

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Publication Order of Lensman Books

Galatic Patrol (1937)Description / Buy at Amazon
Children of the Lens (1947)Description / Buy at Amazon
Triplanetary (1948)Description / Buy at Amazon
First Lensman (1950)Description / Buy at Amazon
Gray Lensman (1951)Description / Buy at Amazon
Second Stage Lensman (1953)Description / Buy at Amazon
Masters of the Vortex (1960)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Second Stage Lensman Books

The Dragon Lensman (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
Lensman from Rigel (1982)Description / Buy at Amazon
Z-Lensman (1983)Description / Buy at Amazon

The Lensman series of science fiction novels were written by Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith. There are six books in the series, first published between 1948 and 1954 though there was a short story called The Vortex Blaster published in 1960 and considered a sequel to the series.

As was the case with many of the science fiction books of the time, the Lensman Series was first published in magazines before the books were collected and reworked into books. The four original novels in the series: Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, and Children of the Lens appeared in the popular magazine Astounding Stories between 1937 and 1948. In 1948 however, Smith rewrote his 1934 science fiction tale Triplanetary to fit the Lensman plot. He did this at the suggestion of Lloyd Arthur Eshbach. Eshbach was the publisher of the very first edition of the Lensman Series as part of the Fantasy Press imprint.

In 1950 Smith wrote the book First Lensman to act as a bridge between Triplanetary and Galactic Patrol. Between 1951 and 1954, Smith rewrote the other books in the series in order to remove inconsistencies and contradictions between the original Lensman Series and the reworked Triplanetary.

When taken in the context of Triplanetary as the part of the chronology, the Lensman Series begins over two billion years before the present and continues beyond the present time to the near future. In the beginning, the universe has no form of life except the ancient Arisians and a few planets next to the Arisian system. The Ariasians are a peace loving race and have given up physical skills in order to enhance their contemplative mental powers. Smith bases his series on the ideas about stellar evolution prevailing at the time, the foremost being that planets are a rarity in the universe, forming only under very unique circumstances. The series is therefore written under the overriding assumption that our First and Second Galaxies, with their billions upon billions of planets, are unique.

A little forward in the Lensman Series plotline come the Eddorians, the complete antithesis of the Ariasians. They are not only warlike but very dictatorial. They come to our universe from an entirely different space-time continuum after observing that our galaxy (the First Galaxy) and the Second Galaxy are passing through each other. This queer event is going to lead to the formation of billions of galaxies with a very high probability that not only life but also intelligence and civilizations will develop in some of them.

The Ariasians are able to detect the impeding Eddorian invasion. They realize that the capabilities of the two super-races are too evenly matched to destroy each other. This leads to a somewhat desperate race to counter the invasion. The Ariasians begin a covert but accelerated program of creating a race capable of standing up to the invaders and winning the coming war. This program is especially based on four planets identified as capable of producing intelligent life including Earth which is known to the Ariasians as Tellus.

As the first novel in the Lensman Series, Triplanetary goes back to the very beginning of the epic saga. While it is not as fast paced as the other five books in the series, it plays a crucial role by laying the foundations for the epic tale to follow. It comprises a series of vignettes each spanning millions of years. The book tells about how the titanic good versus evil struggle between the Arisians and the wicked Eddorians first came to be. It explains how humanity was chosen (and bred) to assume the amazing power of the Lens. Only a handful of humans are aware of this of this and the upcoming battles where their puny race located on a mote of a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy will play a pivotal role in the epic battle of the Super-races. The book tells of the early history of the breeding program on Earth, illustrated through the lives of a handful of warriors. It is worth noting that the original Triplanetary as serialized in the Amazing Stories magazine had nothing to do with the Epic Ariasians versus Eddorians struggle. Instead the plot was about a race of an aquatic civilization of beings known as Nevans who are out in search of iron in the Universe as they have harnessed means to tap its atomic energy. They detect that Earth has vast iron reserves and use a special ray to extract the metal from the city of Pittsburg, vaporizing buildings power infrastructure and even sucking it up from human blood. The novel is about the desperate race by humans to stop any further damage. While not consistent with the Lensman series proper, this original edition of Triplanetary is eye opening about the creative genius of Smith and wroth a read.

The second book in the series is The First Lensman. It tells the story of the first Lens and the formation of the Galactic Patrol. It tells the story of how the Lens was first given to Virgil Samms of “Tellus” (Earth). He is the first Lensman of the title. The book also tells the story of Roderick Kinnison, who is on a different breeding line to Samms’ but who shares his inherent leadership abilities, intelligence, capability and influence. Early on, Samms is told by the Ariasians that as the head of the Triplanetary Service, he has to visit the Ariasian planetary system where he will be bequeathed the Lens, a powerful tool necessary for the formation and success of the planned Galactic Patrol. The wearer of the Lens will have special powers including superior mental capability necessary to accomplish the Herculean tasks ahead. With it, the wearer has capability to perform mind reading and telepathy. It also enables the wearer to bridge any type of communication barrier between different life forms throughout the universe. However, it is capable of killing anyone who proves unworthy of wearing it. Indeed, if anyone other than the legitimate wearer as much as touches it, they will be seriously injured if not killed outright. Samms and his successors will however have to discover for themselves the true extent of the Lens powers. At the time span covered by The First Lensman, the breeding programs in the other three planets chosen by the Ariasians have been deemed not viable and halted forthwith. Using the Lens, Virgil Samms visits many planets in other star systems, identifying individuals he deems as worth of joining the Galactic Patrol. In this second book, the nature of the enemy is also revealed, with the Eddorians revealed to be a civilization built on dominance hierarchies making use of crony capitalism and organized crime to assume the control of new worlds.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Lensman

One Response to “Lensman”

  1. Chris Billows: 2 weeks ago

    Great summary! You can really see how influential this series was on Frank Herbert’s Dune series with the noble vs nefarious conflict, genetic breeding, and era spanning setting. Heck, Children of Dune is a direct homage to Children of the Lens in title.


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