The Legion of Space Critical Essays

Jack Williamson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Legion of Space stories were published in four novels and one novella between 1934 and 1983, a span of almost half a century. Fantasy Press reprinted the first serial in 1947, as Jack Williamson’s first appearance outside magazines, and combined the shorter The Cometeers and One Against the Legion in a single edition in 1950. Pyramid Books brought out separate paperback editions of all three novels in 1967, adding the novella, “Nowhere Near,” to One Against the Legion, the shortest of the three. Hardback and paperback editions followed, collecting all four stories under the title Three from the Legion. In 1983, Williamson added a new novel, The Queen of the Legion.

Fast-paced and exciting, the Legion stories are memorable mainly for the incongruity of Giles being in them. Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn is among Giles’s science-fictional descendants. The first three stories owe a debt to Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers (1844), with Jay, Hal, and Giles standing in for Athos, Aramis, and Porthos and a different hero each time in the D’Artagnan role. Jay and Hal, never all that individualistic, especially compared with Giles, have dropped away by the time of “Nowhere Near” and The Queen of the Legion.

Each story also has its own romance, with the changing succession of heroes—John Ulnar, Bob Star, Chan Derron, and Lars Ulnar (the only one to narrate a...

(The entire section is 477 words.)