E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith was one of the pioneers of old-school sci-fi – and when I say ‘old-school,’ I mean it. “Skylark of Space” was originally published as a serial in the magazine ‘Amazing Stories’ in 1928. That’s right – 1928! It’s considered to be one of the very first interstellar adventure stories, and being a fan of classic sci-fi, I knew I’d enjoy seeing where one of my favorite genres came from.
The novel struck me as quintessentially ‘pulpy’; it reminded me a lot of a Jules Verne style odyssey. The spherical spaceship that moves effortlessly with the help of a mysterious element ‘X’ reminded me visually of all those old pulpy movies with the saucer-shaped UFOs. In one particular scene, one of the ladies on the spaceship is trying to make lunch in zero gravity, and the bread and sandwich fillings are floating all around the room in a comedy of errors. Far from being cliche, though, it was endearing – probably because I know that it was written before the cliche existed. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the story that started that cliche!
The story as a whole reminded me a lot of original series Star Trek, with helpful alien races and a lighthearted take on the whole situation. Since it was originally published as a serial, it’s comprised of short, action-packed chapters that made it a very quick read. I’d highly recommend it to anyone with a sense of humor about sci-fi who wants to see where the genre got its start.