Sargasso of Space: Old-fashioned sci-fi fun

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsSargasso of Space by Andre Norton science fiction book reviewsSargasso of Space by Andre Norton

Sargasso of Space is the opening novel in Andre Norton’s so-called DANE THORSON (SOLAR QUEEN) series, and is a fine introduction to the books that follow. In this first volume we meet Dane Thorson, a young cargo-apprentice who is assigned (by mechanical Psycho selection) to the trader ship Solar Queen. The crew of the Queen pools its earnings and wins an entire planet, sight unseen, at auction. (Perhaps Ebay will be conducting auctions such as this in 50 or so years!) The crew then explores this strange planet, called Limbo, and discovers the remnants of a lost civilization, as well as globular natives, space pirates, mysterious artifacts and so on.
fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOstensibly written for juveniles and “young adults,” this novel has a strong appeal for “grown-ups” as well. Not for nothing has Ms. Norton become one of the most popular of all SFF writers, selling kajillions of books and endearing herself to the hearts of millions. She writes simply but directly, and her characters are always sharply drawn and easy to identify with. Her early science fiction works (this one was written in 1955) are in the true Golden Age pulp spirit, with no symbolism or literary tricks to gussy up the pleasure of an exciting story well told. By the end of this short but exciting novel, we feel that we know a lot about the 12 crewmembers of the Solar Queen, yet want to know more. In that, the book is an unqualified success.

As a matter of fact, I only had one small problem with this Norton novel. At one point in the story, our trader heroes set out to explore some alien ruins located around 20 miles from their ship. They walk to the ruins in a heavy fog, look around, and then decide to walk back! Now, I don’t care how tough these guys are (and truth to tell, they seem more like average Joes than Stallone-type action figures, to the author’s credit)… nobody walks 40 miles in a day — not even the Marines — on a gravity-normal planet! But beyond this stretching of credulity, Sargasso of Space is a marvelous entertainment that I do recommend highly to all lovers of old-fashioned sci-fi fun.

Solar Queen — (1955-1997) Series started by Andre Norton. Last two novels co-authored by Sherwood Smith. Publisher: In 1955, Norton introduced Dane Thorson, an apprentice cargo-master who signed on with the independent cargo ship Solar Queen looking for a career in off-world trade. Here are the first two star-spanning tales of Dane Thorson and the Solar Queen. In Sargasso of Space, the free-traders of the Solar Queen win exclusive rights to all tradable goods discovered on the planet Limbo. The crew arrives to find the planet’s surface charred, signs of life sparse. Worse yet, a strange pulse emanating from the planet itself may keep the Queen from lifting off. The traders find a secret valley with life, but others may still lurk in rocky caves below. The traders must solve the mysteries of Limbo if they hope to escape the planet, let alone come away with some saleable goods. In Plague Ship, the Queen travels to Sargol, homeworld to a race of sentient felines, the Salariki. Sargol promises a wealth of exquisite gems to trade — if the crew can overcome the natives’ mistrust. But their troubles have only just begun. When a mysterious soon overtakes all the crew except the four youngest, the Galactic Patrol labels the Queen plagued and orders it to be destroyed on sight. The apprentices discover alien beings aboard the Queen, and realize the illness may be connected to the aliens. With every ship in the galaxy searching for them, the crew has one chance to save the Solar Queen: broadcast their plight throughout the galaxy. But the one station able to do this is on Earth, at Patrol headquarters, which ordered the Solar Queen’s destruction!

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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