Alice Mary Norton, better known to the science fiction world as Andre Norton, was born on February 17, 1912. Ms. Norton also used pseudonyms Andrew Norton and Allen Weston to publish her works during a time when female writers changed their names to reach the male-centric and male-dominated science fiction market, and in 1934 she officially changed her name to Andre Alice Norton.
Known as the Grand Dame of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Ms. Norton wrote novels for over 70 years and before passing away in 2005 had over 300 published titles to her name, beginning with her first novel which was published in 1934. She was twice nominated for the Hugo Award (Witch World in 1964 and Wizard's World in 1967). Norton was also the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Award from the World of Science Fiction Society in 1977, and in 1998 won the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement after having been nominated three times.
In 2005 the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America created the Andre Norton Award to be given each year, beginning in 2006, for an outstanding work of young adult fantasy or science fiction.
She has influenced at least four generations of science fiction and fantasy readers and writers, including quite a few well known authors, among them: Lois McMaster Bujold, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Tanya Huff, Mercedes Lackey, Joan D. Vinge, David Weber, and Catherine Asaro.
Visit Andre Norton's official website here.
Sargasso of Space (Solar Queen #1) by Andre Norton
|Sargasso of Space|
Sargasso of Space is a fun space adventure that may have originally been written as a 'boys' space adventure.' Regardless, I really enjoyed it. There's no question that to a certain degree the story is dated, (i.e: packets of information are in microfiche or microfilm) but because Norton focuses on the mystery, adventure, and the human aspects of the story instead of spectacular science fiction details, it holds up pretty well.
There are no over-the-top hidden messages, instead basis for the plot is pretty obvious. Norton focuses worldbuilding and conflicts for the space adventures on trade between the planets and pits the heroes in her adventures, a small crew of twelve Free Traders who in essence always begin from a disadvantaged position, against the big "Company" or all-powerful and wealthy trading moguls who seem to hold all the cards. Norton also uses a version of this device when creating her young character Dane Thorson who comes from a poor background, an orphanage, and through his own efforts receives an education, graduates, and is given the opportunity for a better future. The supposed impartial Psycho machine doesn't match him with one of the big companies, but he is given the opportunity to explore, gain experience, and to "make it" as a Free Trader. Both the crew and Dane are underdogs overcoming obstacles to succeed.
I didn't find deep characterization in this story, however, the crew of the Solar Queen make a great team. It is also tough to measure true character growth when taking into consideration that Sargasso of Space is the first book of a long series. In this first book, Norton introduces Dane's young character as an apprentice mentored and accepted by the crew. He fits in even as his confidence fluctuates from highs to lows when making rookie mistakes and begins the process of learning the ropes. In Captain Jellico, the all knowing Cargo-Master Van Rycke, and the Cook-Steward Frank Mura, Norton introduces strong role models for Dane and the other young apprentices. Additionally, there is a mixture of cultures within the crew members, although not surprising for the time this novel was written, it is an all male crew.
In this first book, I found Dane Thorson to be a bit of a "goody-two-shoes" compared to some of the other crew members, but I'm reading the second book of the series at the moment, Plague Ship (Solar Queen #2), and am hoping that he will break out of his little self-imposed box. The action, however, is quick paced and the adventure once begun, fun enough to keep me engrossed to the end. I've heard and read a bit about this young adult science fiction series throughout the years, and it seems to be beloved by old fans. As a new reader, I found the first book enjoyable enough to continue by reading the second book of the Solar Queen series.
So, did I miss out during my teenage years by not reading Andre Norton's science fiction stories? I believe so! So far these are just fun! Recommended for young (and not so young) adults who love a good space adventure.
Solar Queen Series:
Sargasso of Space (1955 as Andrew North)
Plague Ship (1956 as Andrew North)
Voodoo Planet (1959)
Postmarked the Stars (1969)
Redline the Stars (1993, with P. M. Griffin)
Derelict for Trade (1997, with Sherwood Smith)
A Mind for Trade (1997, with Sherwood Smith)