Voodoo Planet: A weak entry in an otherwise terrific series

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsVoodoo Planet by Andre NortonVoodoo Planet by Andre Norton

Voodoo Planet
(1959), the third installment of the DANE THORSON / SOLAR QUEEN series, is a rather weak entry in this otherwise terrific bunch of books. Here, Dane, Captain Jellico, and Medic Tau are stranded on Khatka, a planet that had been settled many years ago by Africans after the Second Atomic War.

Our boys fight off many alien creatures in the wilds of Khatka — the fight with the rock apes is a highlight of the story — and help conquer the evil witch doctor who is trying to overthrow the legitimate government. Magic is thrown about left and right with only a superficial, mumbo-jumbo explanation of how things are done; something about ancestral memories. When all is said and done, the reader has enjoyed the sequences with the alien monsters but is left shaking his/her head at the implausibility of the magical elements. What might have worked in a tale of Norton’s WITCH WORLD somehow doesn’t fly in this tale of hard sci-fi survival.

And let’s not even go into how Norton makes up words such as “discordinate,” constantly uses the word “turgid” instead of “turbid” (as in “the water was turgid”), and constantly uses expressions such as [the other figure was] “still very still.” Her early works certainly did lack polish, but even here, in some of her lesser early work, the Norton flair for telling an exciting tale with color and drive comes through.

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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