One of Norton's strongest SF books, Sargasso of Space puts us firmly on the side of the 'little guy' independent trader, the Solar Queen, aiming to ma...moreOne of Norton's strongest SF books, Sargasso of Space puts us firmly on the side of the 'little guy' independent trader, the Solar Queen, aiming to make a profit within the rules, up against the bottomless pockets of the large trading combines.
With an excellent combination of comradeship, mystery and adventure, this is a quick and engrossing read. The only mar is the usual issue with Norton's early work - women don't exist.(less)
While the history doesn't seem to quite match up, this is ostensibly set in the same universe as Star Guard, after jumping forward a thousand or so ye...moreWhile the history doesn't seem to quite match up, this is ostensibly set in the same universe as Star Guard, after jumping forward a thousand or so years to the decline the galactic empire that humans have become part of. A little laggy in parts, but with some enjoyable parts.
Women actually appear in the book! And a couple have names and everything. :) Actually serving in the Patrol, but in a kind of "Women's auxiliary" supply corps. And the usual wives and mothers.(less)
The people of Earth ventured beyond their solar system and discovered a well-established galactic empire - that regarded them as over-aggressive barba...moreThe people of Earth ventured beyond their solar system and discovered a well-established galactic empire - that regarded them as over-aggressive barbarians, and consigned them to the role of mercenaries, too naturally pushing and violent to be trusted as full citizens. If someone from Earth wants to travel among the stars, they can only do so by enlisting as an Arch (sword-based combat) or a Mech (tech-based combat), to fight to settle the disputes of others.
After three hundred years of this, when Kana Karr (an Australian-Hawaiian-Malay young man) graduates as an Arch, it's about time something in this system gave.
First published in 1955, this story fully demonstrates Norton's belief that to be published in SF she could not write about women. There are no women in this story. Indeed, there is only a single mention of a photograph of an alien woman to demonstrate that non-male individuals exist at all anywhere.
And the system outlined above - how do women fall into this "too violent to leave Earth, must be a soldier to leave Earth" Catch 22? They don't. They're not mentioned at all, but presumably no Earth woman ever gets to leave Earth in the system set up. Back on the home planet, popping out soldiers.
Setting aside the non-existence of women, this is middle territory for Norton - engrossing for the "first assignment" and predicament portions, but the set-up is odd and contradictory.(less)
Although starting in the same place - with a loner outsider in the ghetto of Dipple - this is a far less successful book than Catseye. While the moral...moreAlthough starting in the same place - with a loner outsider in the ghetto of Dipple - this is a far less successful book than Catseye. While the morally weak position of the main character is workable, the very long survival and monsters sections that make up a large portion of the book are for the most part just repetitive and dull.(less)
Norton's classic outsider story. Norton's early books are almost completely romance-free and sex-free - the main characters never show any sign of int...moreNorton's classic outsider story. Norton's early books are almost completely romance-free and sex-free - the main characters never show any sign of interest, and there's only the slightest hints that anyone ever does (usually the vaguest allusions to pleasure girls). This one, however, is also known as "the one with the gay subtext". There's no definite romance, but you can certainly see Troy/Rerne following many of the standard romance beats - the meet cute, the getting to know, the estrangement, the reconciliation.
It's also a great example of constantly changing the situation up so that the reader's interest never flags. (less)
While flawed in many ways, this book moves from a slow start to a compelling ending.
This is a story in two halves. The first half involves a disparate...moreWhile flawed in many ways, this book moves from a slow start to a compelling ending.
This is a story in two halves. The first half involves a disparate group of prisoners, coming to their senses on an abandoned, automated facility where it appears they've been kept so that they can be replaced by android doubles. The blurb gives away one of the main plot issues with this half of the story, as the prisoners try to work out how to get back to where they belong.
The second half of this story abandons that situation almost altogether, and instead wanders into one of Norton's magic fused with science set-ups and a battle for control of a planet. This half is the more compelling read, but also makes the first half almost entirely irrelevant.
For a book first published in 1971, Android at Arms is interesting for having the main character and a large portion of the cast be people of African ancestry. Very rare for SF at that time (and still rare!). Unfortunately, the gender politics is not one of Norton's better efforts - the antagonist is an evil "Old Woman" god. There's a moment where this is introduced where it looks like Norton's going to do something interesting by having the protagonist realise that he's merely been taught that women's magic is bad, but sadly that moment passes unrealised and instead we have two opposed groups - one where all the characters are men except for the Emperor's valiant wife, and the other side which is all women except for some enslaved men. No points for picking which side is evil and which side wins.
It's sad to read any book where all women except one are depicted as bad, and the divided aspect of the two halves of the tale do the book no favours, so while it did pick up in the end I'd recommend this book mainly for Norton completionists.(less)