A long time ago, in a science fiction universe far away....
No, seriously, there once was a time when popular science fiction was hopeful, futuristic, and talked about the marvels of technology and the colonies we would soon establish throughout the Solar System -- a Solar System where planets were nearly just like Earth, only a little extreme -- Mars was desert, and hot at that, and Venus was cloudy jungle. This was the science fiction Robert Heinlein wrote for a juvenile audience, and it spread, during the 1950s, to popular culture.
One of the more popular derivatives was "Tom Corbett, Space Cadet," by Joseph Lawrence Greene, inspired by Heinlein's "Space Cadet." Where the latter explored serious issues of growing up and the duties of military service, "Tom Corbett" was more about making friends, exploring strange new places (and sometimes getting trapped in them), and having to answer to teachers and adults. It was a juvenile take on a juvenile subject, something in these later sardonic days we roll our eyes at. When "Tom Corbett" came to the public, it was new, breathless, and promising. It was also one of the first TV series with an sf theme. You laugh, but the enlisted Solar Guard of "Tom Corbett" wore red shirts. Consider where its lineage has since gone.
This collection of the first seven books of the eight known to be published (the eighth, ownership disputed, is not present) represents nearly the complete run of the stories presented on TV from 1950-1955. As such it is unsurpassed as the source material for the early popular American fascination with space and space exploration that would culminate in the American space program and the moon landing. It's not challenging reading, intended as it was for a young audience; the stories have plot holes and contrivances of convenience, the characters tend to be two-dimensional, even the leads, and romance is pretty much absent along with female characters, but it is an adventure series specifically intended for boys and as such has a charming hopefulness about it. This has made it kind of campy for later audiences, but there was a reason these kinds of works have survived and been read since Robert Louis Stevenson's day. We want to see the good guys encounter danger and bad guys and overcome them both. This is a literary craving we are born with, to have adventures with happy endings, and we are not likely to outgrow it.
So discover it here, if it's new to you, or pick it up again, as I did. Roll your eyes if you must. Before there was "Star Trek," before there was "Star Wars," there was a science-fiction TV series that electrified the nation, was turned into a movie, a radio serial, an Australian spin-off, several comics, and yes, these books. If you ever wondered where the idea for those clear-globe space helmets came from -- you know, like the ones the Apollo astronauts actually wore? -- they came from here. Welcome back to the source.
Incidentally, the author of these novels, the pseudonymous 'Carey Rockwell,' has never been publicly identified with Greene, the creator. This collection doesn't even have Rockwell's name on them unless you read the front matter. Where you will also find that one of the scriptwriters for the series was Alfred Bester, later author of "The Stars My Destination." There's more fun here to discover, not counting the additional three books of juvenile sf included. I recommend it highly to those not afraid of fun.
[5 of 5 Stars!]