[A note that I will probably remove if these reviews are ever collected into book form: yes, I screwed up the order of the last few reviews.]
1962’s The Defiant Agents is the third in the Time Traders series. It’s a sequel to The Time Traders and Galactic Derelict.
Thanks to the events of the previous two books, the US now has in its possession the location of various potential colony worlds as well as the means to reach them. Unfortunately, thanks to a spy, so do the Reds.
Once the info theft is revealed, the US decides to override the objections of researcher Dr. Ashe, ignore the fact that certain vital technologies are still in the experimental stage, and set in motion Operation Cochise: the settlement of the planet Topaz by Amerindians like Travis Fox.
1963’s Judgment on Janus returns to the Dipple, that oubliette for refugees. Life in the Dipple is so wretched and horrible that young Naill Renfro considers it only sensible to sell himself as a contract labourer—a slave—so he can earn enough money to buy his dying mother a fatal overdose of drugs. Naill can do nothing to make her life in the Dipple bearable; dreaming herself to death is the only escape possible for his mother.
Naill at least manages to trade the Dipple for a new life on Janus, although given what he finds on that backward world, it’s not clear he got the better of the deal.
1962’s Lord of Thunder is a sequel to The Beast Master, picking up pretty much where The Beast Master left off. Hosteen Storm has lost his birth planet and his people , but Arzor has given him a new home, a new family, and a new life.
1961’s Catseye takes us to the Dipple on Korwar, a slum filled with refugees and their children, despised reminders of the pointless but vastly destructive War of Two Sectors. There are very few ways out of the Dipple and someone trapped there, someone like Troy Horan, might go to any extreme to escape.
They might even agree to work at a pet store.
1959’s The Beast Master is the first novel in Norton’s Beast Master series.
Hosteen Storm is one of a select group of people, that handful of Terrans who had the luck (good or bad, depending on your point of view) not to be on Earth when the alien Xik bombarded that world in one final desperate attempt to prevent defeat at the hands of the humans. Many of the other survivors have gone mad from grief, but Storm is protected by a promise made to Storm’s Dineh grandfather; Storm cannot rest until he wreaks the vengeance that the old man never could.
1960’s Storm Over Warlock begins as Shan Lantee, a low-ranking recruit from an abjectly deprived background, suddenly becomes the senior member of his exploration team on the planet Warlock. Unfortunately this does not come because his worth is suddenly recognized by his superiors. It comes because he’s the only human member of the team who is not in the Terran Survey camp when it and all of its inhabitants are burned to ashes by the hostile alien Throgs.
1960’s The Sioux Spaceman is another one of Norton’s standalone novels, although fans will recognize elements common to other Norton series. As I contemplated the book before reading, the cover didn’t fill me with enthusiasm, particularly given how badly I was served by Voodoo Planet, but … it turned out that, while this isn’t one of Norton’s more memorable books, it has points of interest.
With 1960’s Shadow Hawk, Andre Norton steps away from science fiction for historical fiction, abandoning space ships and alien worlds for chariots and an ancient Egypt subjugated by the Hyksos.
1959’s Secret of the Lost Race is a fascinating little oddity; it has what must be the most bleak passage I’ve encountered in a Norton novel, the first (possible but not confirmed) matriarchy I remember encountering in her fiction (despite not having any on-stage women to speak of, which is an odd combination), and, because the copy I happened to find was the 1969 Ace reprint, a very interesting essay by Lin Carter.
But first, a word from the fan site Andre Norton Books:
March 17, 2015
Marks ten years since the world has been without Andre Norton.
Andre-Norton-Books.com will be doing a special tribute to
The Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy
We have a special gift to share with all of Andre’s fans.
Please honor Andre by emailing us with any words of tribute
that you wish to share with Andre and her fans.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
1959’s Voodoo Planet is the second half of the omnibus referenced in the previous review. I was a bit surprised to discover that this is one of the Solar Queen stories. I thought I had been sent all of the Solar Queen stories for review over the years, but I’d never seen this one. Having read it, I suspect I know why this is the Solar Queen tale Norton fans would just as soon pretend does not exist. I will reveal the secret if you follow me into the dark mysteries of a review I will call (borrowing Hradzka’s memorable title) OH ANDRE NORTON NO.
I am reviewing 1961’s Star Hunter out of sequence because in the original ad for Andre Norton novels, the one that inspired this series, Star Hunter is listed as part of an omnibus edition also containing Voodoo Planet. That novel was published in 1959. This review and the one that follows constitute a review of the omnibus Star Hunter & Voodoo Planet. In cases like this, the publication date of the earlier work is the one I am going to use .
Discussion of one of the more interesting aspects of this book requires a pretty major spoiler, so … SPOILER WARNING!
The 1982 Ace edition of 1959’s Galactic Derelict is billed as “Book #2 in the Ross Murdoch series.” That bit is misleading. While Ross does appear in the book, he’s only a supporting character; its true protagonist is Travis Fox. If Ace had billed this as Time Traders #2, that would have dodged the whole ‘who is the protagonist?’ issue.
I could give this book another blurb: “first Andre Norton SF reviewer James Nicoll ever read.” That was way back in 1972, an earlier edition of the book, another time. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times … sorry, I get flashbacks.
1958’s The Time Traders is the first of seven books featuring Ross Murdoch. Four of these (The Time Traders, Galactic Derelict, The Defiant Agents, and Key Out of Time) were written by Norton solo and three (Firehand, Echoes in Time, and Atlantis Endgame) were written in collaboration with other writers.
I could tell you a funny story about the series but … no, I will get to it later on.
1958’s Star Gate is a standalone novel, but it foreshadows later works by Norton. Here, she tries out new themes: magic and interdimensional gateways. Although this novel’s setting features hi-tech devices like blasters, there is also magic. Starships exist, but the main characters reach their destination via interdimensional gateway.
1957’s Star Born returns to the universe of 1954’s The Stars Are Ours! It is not a long book, but Norton manages to get more value out of her limited page count than later authors could do with much longer narratives.
1956’s Plague Ship returns to the adventures of the Free Trader Solar Queen in a little tale that illustrates the fundamental rule of the Solar Queen stories: Then Things Got Worse.
1956’s Crossroads of Time is in many respects another straightforward, serviceable little adventure novel that I would have found unremarkable except for an interesting choice of protagonist and a date of publication that makes the previous even more interesting. These two points cause me to stroke my beard in a thoughtful manner, which I believe makes me look intellectual rather than itchy.
1955’s Star Guard is a prequel to Star Rangers. Although this book is set thousands of years before Star Rangers, Star Guard’s galaxy is ruled by the same Central Control that is in the process of falling apart in Star Rangers. The difference is that Star Guard’s Central Control is dominated by the galaxy’s elder races and humans are an ill-regarded junior race. Humans struggling for freedom in a galaxy set against them is a familiar story, but Norton provides a fascinating, if very dark, twist by placing this in the same universe as Star Rangers.
1955’s Sargasso of Space, which Norton originally published under the pen name Andrew North, is memorable because it is the first of the Solar Queen novels. These form a seven-book series1 about Dale Thorson and his fellow Free Traders, who ply their trade between the stars and scrabble for a living despite the fact the game is rigged against them.
The book is notable for me because it just so happens that I caused the text of the 2003 omnibus to be very slightly amended, a story I will tell later on.
1954’s The Stars Are Ours is, sadly, one of Norton’s minor efforts. Because I read this for the SFBC a decade ago I knew that going in but while this novel is something I am reading for completion’s sake, it does have its interesting elements1
1953’s The Star Rangers takes us to a First Galactic Empire three thousand years old, just past the point where slow decline becomes rapid collapse. Central Control is no longer so central or so in control but the Patrol remains loyal to its former master. This makes the Patrol an impediment to Imperial functionaries trying to transition from regional bureaucrat to local warlord and so the Vegan registry Patrol ship Starfire finds itself ordered to chart uncharted worlds, a long term exploration mission whose real purpose is to keep the men of the Starfire occupied long enough to be killed in the course of their duties.
Originally published as Starman’s Son, 2250 A.D., Norton’s first science fiction novel has been also titled Daybreak — 2250 A.D. (the version I have) and Starman’s Son. Ace seems to have preferred the Daybreak variant and I think it is because they were worried readers might be misled by the title. This is not a world where young men  find their destinies between the stars. It is one where they struggle to find a better way of life on the radioactive ruins of Earth.
1938’s Ralestone Luck was the first novel Andre Norton wrote (although it was the second she had published) and it is one that is completely new to me. It’s actually a good thing I only just discovered this because, if this had been the first Norton novel I read, there probably would not have been a second.
When I picked up Andre Norton’s 1951 novel, Huon of the Horn, I was expecting a standard fantasy. What I got has a lot more in common with Poul Anderson’s Hrolf Kraki’s Saga,which is also a modern presentation of a centuries-old work. This discovery casts a lot of light on some of the peculiarities of the Witch World series now that I know one of the sources that inspired that series.