So, if you’ve read any post on my blog with “Lens” in the title over the last year, you know what this one is about – I recently finished Second Stage Lensmen by E. E. “Doc” Smith. Though the title is plural, the story really focuses on Second Stage Lensman Kimball Kinnison, though, to be fair, Worsel and Nadrek both have their part to play (I can’t remember Tegonsee making an appearance at all, however.) A bit of a summary below the fold.
As in the proceeding books, Second Stage Lensmen is about Kimball Kinnison’s attempt to take down Boskone, the real Boskone, the actual big man on campus that is running things (no, really this time.) The catch is that they have no leads, as they destroyed them all at the end of Gray Lensman. Instead, they hunker down and wait for the inevitable counter-attack… …And build an awesome solar laser, which they fire to kick off the space mega-battle on Tellus’s own doorstep at the beginning of the story.
I’ve noticed the last few books have tended to have a pattern of “big tech and big space battles” mini-arcs sandwiching “the hunt” style mini-arcs, and Second Stage Lensmen fits right in. Here, the hunt is primarily Kimball Kinnison finding a knot of zwilniks or Boskonians and starting at the bottom rung of the organization and working his way to the top. In the final case, “the top” was really the leader of Boskone (no, really, it was this time) and their particular fight was a mental battle of epic proportions while the fleets of Civilization and Boskone battled just outside the command ship.
Aside from the main plots, there were some interesting details and cool payoffs in this book in particular (warning, spoilers). First, we find out who the first woman lensman is, as mentioned in First Lensman – it’s Clarissa McDougal. This wasn’t surprising to me, so much as it was interesting to see how she changes (or, really, doesn’t change) as a result of this change in status. The second really interesting detail to me was what the Lensman do for money. In short, they have no personal funds (these having been taken by the Galactic Patrol), but are given payment vouchers, which draw from Galactic Patrol funds, that they may use for anything they want or need (Clarissa, for instance, buys some dresses.) Lastly, it is in this book that we finally see the protagonists encounter an Eddorian directly (it is, in fact, Gharlane.) While it was covered up by Mentor of Arisia, it is the first time, as readers, we really see the full connection between Eddore and the Boskonian civilization, which is really rewarding.
Overall, I really liked Second Stage Lensmen, but I’m looking forward to the last book in the series. While the cadence of the books is definitely fun, (there’s always one more big Boskonian), I really want to see the final piece in place. The end, the Galactic Patrol vs Eddore, has been alluded to quite a bit, but the connection to the current events is always so tenuous, I really want to see that strengthened and… …ended.