Book Review: The Galaxy Primes by E. E. “Doc” Smith

The Galaxy Primes is one of E. E. “Doc” Smith’s lesser known works and rightfully so.

Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith is widely regarded as the Father of Space Opera. His Lensman and Skylark of Space series are rightly famous for essentially starting the subgenre. The Galaxy Primes unfortunately falls far short in all ways of those much more famous works.

The Galaxy Primes was originally published as a serial in Amazing Stories from March to May of 1959 and as a novel by Ace in 1965. The plot, or what passes for a plot, is simple in the extreme. Four super psychics, called Psionic Primes, two men and two women, are launched into space on an experimental spaceship and get hopelessly lost. They jump from star system to star system in an attempt to return home and run into planet after planet of humans. In fact most of the planets our heroes visit have societies that resemble Earth’s in the mid-20th Century, allowing Smith to indulge in some social satire, which falls flat.

It sounds like a great set up for a ripping and roaring space adventure in the mold of Doc Smith’s other works. However, the great set-up is never realized. The novel is almost all talk with very little action. The dialog is stilted to say the least; long, boring and many times simply incomprehensible. While the crew of the starship Pleiades does have a few fights with hostile aliens, there is absolutely no tension in the battle scenes because of the god-like powers of the crew. The Psionic Primes can create megaton-sized explosions by merely thinking about it. A good example of their infinite powers is on one planet the four Earth people totally disarm the bad guys by teleporting all their weapons away in one night, leaving the good guys safe from attack.

Of course, Smith was never known for his great dialog or character development, but for writing huge, bombastic action scenes. It is impossible to determine what exactly he was trying to do in The Galaxy Primes because he doesn’t even try for action. Smith might have been trying to write a sci-fi romance but the characters are so flat and hackneyed, it is impossible to see them as more than cardboard cut outs and even more impossible to see them as romantic objects.

The novel is unpolished and just feels rushed and confused, like Smith wrote it all in one setting and never bothered to edit it. One wonders how something this bad ever got published, even with good Doctor’s name attached.

To sum up, The Galaxy Primes is not worth a read unless you just desire to read everything E. E. “Doc” Smith wrote. If you want to read something good by the Doc, then break out a copy of First Lensman or The Skylark of Space.

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