Sargasso of Space
by Andre Norton
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

a Dane Thorson / Solar Queen novel

Ace Books: New York, 1955
as by Andrew North
185 pages

Gregg Press: Boston, 1978
introduction by Sandra Miesel

July 2014

  
Forerunners, their Sargasso, & their labyrinth

Andre Norton wrote four science fiction novels featuring Dane Thorson, the young cargo-master apprentice aboard the independent Free Trader starship Solar Queen. Sargasso of Space is the first of this series, and I think the best.

The stage is set by the long-vanished race that men call the Forerunners. The Solar Queen's crew bids for trading rights to a recently discovered, uninhabited planet. It's a blind auction, and when they see the minimal survey report, the crew learns that the planet was hit hard in the Forerunners' ancient war, which means it's probably worthless. On the other hand, if it wasn't totally burnt off, there's a chance that they might discover some unpredictably valuable and salable Forerunner artifacts.

Sargasso of Space is quite neatly plotted. The viewpoint is young-man-coming-of-age, so in that respect it's a "juvenile". This is straightforward, and meshes nicely with the much more interesting details of how an interstellar Free Trader operates, and specifically with how this ship and its tasks are handled by the briefly but clearly characterized dozen men aboard the Solar Queen.

The Sargasso situation is carefully thought out and plausible; a memorable treatment. But what almost steals the show is a another peril of legendary fatality, a dark labyrinth on the planet. This artificial labyrinth is a vivid nightmare of individual entrapment, as a Sargasso is a sailors' (or star-farers') dread of ship entrapment. Definitely hindrances to survival before one can think again about free trade, and all of this Andre Norton ties together in a solid adventure.

  

© 2014 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
The Solar Queen novels:
  Sargasso of Space  (1955)
  Plague Ship  (1956)
  Voodoo Planet  (1959)
  Postmarked the Stars  (1969)

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