The Vortex Blaster

By Clifford D. Simak

1,448 ratings - 3.71* vote

Two science fiction stories.

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Book details

Kindle Edition, 0 pages

(first published 1960)

Original Title
Masters of the Vortex
0515030007 (ISBN13: 9780515030006)

Community Reviews


Nice to read a novel set in the Lensmen universe, but not starring one of the Lensmen (although they still feature prominently in this tale). It was also interesting to note that computers make their first appearance in the series and that absolutely no one uses a slide rule in this book. In fact, Dr. Neal Cloud is a human computing machine, performing feats of calculation unmatched by other mortals. He is partnered with Joan Jankowski because of her expertise with computers, which are improving but are still no match for Cloud’s brain.

In many ways, this book felt like an episode of Star Trek (TOS). There are telepathy, super-human abilities, a cast which includes many interesting aliens, a mysterious source of “nuclear vortices,” a Dudley-DoRight type main character and a romantic sub-plot. Dr. Neal Cloud starts out more like the Lone Ranger (with Joan as Tonto), but ends up with a band of aliens (largely female) who refuse to leave his side. I loved the cat-woman, Vesta, and her unabashedly sensual ways! Also loved the cigar-smoking female engineer (I pictured her as rather reptilian).

Of course, Neal and Joan end up being strongly attracted to one another. I do love Smith’s insistence on providing intelligent female companions for his heroes. Mind you, when Cloud manages to become a telepath, he rates 6 on a scale of 5 and is acknowledged by all for his superiority! (Poor old Joan is only rated a 3). No ordinary heroes with average abilities for Doc Smith. He manages to convey a lot of romantic atmosphere with very little description, no doubt necessary for the morays of the time (published in 1960).

This is book number 154 of my science fiction and fantasy reading project.

Rex Libris

Doc Smith stories are pulp Sci-Fi, and just so much fun to read. If you want action, heroism, and no moral ambiguity, anything he writes is for you.In this installment of the Lensman series, a man who lost his family in an atomic vortex figures out how to eliminate them. The story culminates in his harrowing flitter trip into the heart of the vortex.


A good story, pacy as ever, however it is slightly divorced from the rest of the Lensman series which really ended with "Children".


This book is available on audio and I listened to it. I thought the book has some wonderful elaborations on the vortex and the MC. For that I would have given a 4. However, I found it very hard to keep all the characters separated on the ship. The adventures were really well done but the rest of the supporting characters very flat in my opinion.

Karl Kindt

I just finished the entire Lensman series, all seven books in seven weeks. It was a rollicking good ride. Pure pulp space opera. It reminds me of Jack Kirby's Fourth World, in that the plots are unpredictable in a good, mind blowing way. It has the snappy dialogue like Hammett. It reminds me of Star Wars Episode IV, with its bickering romance of Han and Leia. It reminds me of Heinlein's powerfully unique characters who talk like no one really talks, but who cares because it's entertaining. It reminds me of PKD's wonderfully unpolished, almost amateurish writing that ignores half of the established conventions of narrative and just tells its crazy plot the way the author wanted to tell it, v with reckless abandon, joyfully ignoring what a staid editor would have wanted to fix. It reminds me of these things and many more, but how could that be when it predates all these things? It's more accurate for me to say that the Lensman series informed all these things, spawned them into our cultural consciousness. This last of the series is unique in that it makes the Lensman secondary characters. Instead the story is more grounded in a relatively normal Joe's POV, seeing the Lensman universe more like us readers would if we were in that weird, wacky, wonderfully unpredictable world that grew out of the feverishly fertile brain of E.E. "Doc" Smith. I'm sad the ride is over.


Masters of the Vortex, the last Lensman novel by E E Smith, is not actually about the lensmen but takes place in the same setting, sometime between Second Stage Lensman and Children of the Lens. Neal “Storm” Cloud is studying loose atomic vortexes when his family is killed by one. Having extraordinary mathematical abilities and no sense of self preservation he’s able to figure out how to extinguish them, by flying close and using a big bomb.

This makes everyone very keen for him to visit their planet and put out their atomic vortexes. Also he tangles with criminals, especially one Fairchild, a radiation scientist that is able to use his knowledge to make thionite, the galaxy’s best drug, and also make loose atomic vortexes to attack his enemies.

Cloud picks up some castaways who become his crew, and then a computer scientist who wants to build a machine to take his job away from him. She succeeds and also teaches him telepathy, and they fall in love. He promptly discovers the secret behind the loose atomic vortexes so as not to be upstaged by the computer built by a woman.

It’s a fun adventure, a bit more episodic and unfocused than the other ones in the series. Because of this there are asides which don’t quite work; there’s a certain amount of discussion of statistical analysis to determine suspicious patterns, but no one actually does that or acts on it until late in the story. Also there’s a moment when they start telepathing and all the women are obsessing about babies which seems a bit over the top. Although Cloud is a member of the Galactic Patrol, he’s a little closer to ground level than Kinnison in the mainline Lensman stories so we see a bit more of ordinary life on planets. Which is cool.

Apparently Smith intended to write more spin off novels but never did.

Read This: For an entertaining if somewhat disjointed space opera adventure.
Don’t Read This: If you don’t want to read about travelling to odd societies that are measured according to how they differ from 1940s America

My reviews of the rest of the series:

First Lensman
Galactic Patrol
Grey Lensman
Second Stage Lensman
Children of the Lens


Typically my one-star ratings are "Note to self: you started this and didn't like it. You probably won't remember it, but don't bother with this in the future." Not this one. It's crap right to the end. (There was one semi-interesting chapter two-thirds of the way in, but that was it.)

Nerds in love. Literally eye-rollingly disgusting.

The author's idea of a flawed character is one whose jaw angle measures only 89.9999 degrees. There was a line somewhere in the book stating that the protagonist was something like 'only the fifth-most important man in the history of humanity.'

I listened to this because I want to complete the series, but this was an awful slog. The series hasn't been good since book three.


The Vortex Blaster is a collection of three science fiction short stories by author Edward E. Smith, Ph.D.. It was simultaneously published in 1960 by Gnome Press in an edition of 3,000 copies and by Fantasy Press in an edition of 341 copies. The book was originally intended to be published by Fantasy Press, but was handed over to Gnome Press when Fantasy Press folded. Lloyd Eshbach, of Fantasy Press, who was responsible for the printing of both editions, printed the extra copies for his longtime customers. The stories originally appeared in the magazines Comet and Astonishing Stories.


A swashbuckling tale of a man that through a combination of circumstances is the only man in the galaxy able to blast atomic vortexes. The story is a chronicle of his adventures across the galaxy, where along with blasting vortexes he uses his knowledge of physics and his prodigy-level mathematically ability to solve crimes, rescue damsels in distress and eventually uncover the secret behind the atomic vortexes.

Teresa Carrigan

Reread for first time in several decades, so I had forgotten almost all of the plot points. It’s extremely dated. The treatment of women is grating although there are female characters who are competent. The entire premise is a bit hard to swallow (the vortexes and governments allowing tech that has chances of accidents that create vortexes). With that said it did keep my attention, which I didn’t expect. Odds are very low that I’ll want to reread this in the future.