By E.E. “Doc” Smith; Read by Reed McColm
1 MP3-CD or 6 CDs – Approx. 7.5 hrs [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Books in Motion
ISBN: 159607793X (MP3-CD); 1596077921 (CDs)
Themes: / Science Fiction / Aliens / Atomic Power / Galactic Civilizations /
I was pleasantly surprised listening to this new audiobook. My past experience with Smith’s books has been less than stellar. On more than one occasion, I’ve cast his novels down unfinished in favor of something else. E. E. “Doc” Smith is one of the most revered names in SF. So I’ve always thought I must be missing something. Anybody who knows my tastes or my podcast knows that I love old SF (as well as new). I’ve always found his overly heroic heroes and his wimpy, fainting females hard to care about. So when I received this new title, my expectations were not the highest.
Neil “Storm” Cloud is the main protagonist and the “Vortex Blaster” of the title. Uncontrolled atomic vortexes have been appearing on planets throughout the galaxy. The vortexes contain radiation and wildly incalescent temperatures. They only grow larger over time and threaten to destroy any worlds they appear upon. Think of them as nuclear tornadoes that never dissipate. Luckily, Cloud has a unique gift—a computational mind that is capable of astonishingly complex mathematics. As the novel opens we find out that he’s been working, without results, on a project to figure out how to stop the vortexes. He has just lost his wife and kids to one of these atomic infernos. Nearly suicidal and distraught, he leaves the project when he has a sudden inspiration on how to stop the phenomena. He has to be in the center of the vortex and has to set off a duodec explosion equal to the energy of the nuclear storm. And because of his unique computational mind, he’s the only man that can do it—and thus becomes the Vortex Blaster. Cloud’s new ability makes him very much in demand. He’s soon traveling across the galaxy to put out the worst vortexes until he finds himself set upon by space pirates, warring aliens, and a mad scientist.
If this all sounds rather pulpy and fun— it is. Vortex Blaster mixes ripsnorting adventure with a jaw-dropping sense of wonder. No one would accuse “Doc” Smith of being a great prose stylist. But if you’re picking up an audiobook called Vortex Blaster, you’re probably not reading it for the style. Actually, Smith is a much better writer than I’d previously thought. “Storm” Cloud is a seasoned, sometimes cynical protagonist. In the second half of the novel he meets Joan, a telepathic genius, and romance ensues. Joan is resourceful and smart – no young, thin beauty. Each of his aliens have unique characteristics too. The entire novel is leavened with wit and humor to contrapose the serious tone.
You may wonder if this title is part of his famous “Lensman” series. It is definitely a stand-alone novel but it is set in the same universe as the Lensman stories. Vortex Blaster is tangentially related, but can be enjoyed without reading any of the other books in the series.
As narrator for this title, Reed McColm handles the vast array of human and especially alien characters with unerring deftness. He nails the aliens individual eccentricities through voice and accents. He handles the narration for several “Doc” Smith’s audiobooks that are published by Books in Motion. Mr. McColm’s talents are a perfect fit to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s super science space epics.