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.
Search for the Star Stones is an omnibus of two linked Norton novels, 1968’s The Zero Stone and 1969’s Uncharted Stars. Many of Norton’s books shared an ancient universe where the history of technological civilizations began long before humans appeared and would presumably long continue once we fell into dust with the rest. While the Zacathans managed to survive through two million years, such longevity is not the usual case and most of the civilizations that rose and fell, lumped together as a misleadingly unitary term “Forerunner”, are known only through enigmatic relics.