Sargasso of Space
Reviewed date: 2007 Jan 21
Previously published as by Andrew North
Until recently I had never heard of Andre Norton, and had no idea she is a Grand Master of science fiction. A recent magazine article alerted me to her existence, and when I was at Half-Price Books I noticed a whole shelf--fifty or sixty books--of nothing but Andre Norton. I picked out a couple that looked interesting.
Norton has fallen largely out of the SF consciousness because her work has not aged well. She writes juveniles and simple books, and the genre has grown up. The juvenile style is apparent in Sargasso of Space, which is an adventure story and nothing more.
The plot is pedestrian: young Dane Thorson signs onto his first spaceship as an apprentice cargo-master. The Solar Queen gambles by securing trading rights to a new planet, Limbo. Limbo turns out to be a scorched earth, a dead testament to the awesome military power of the extinct Forerunners. But unlike other scorched planets, Limbo is not completely lifeless. Solar Queen makes a run out to Limbo, where they discover the hideous truth: there are working Forerunner machines on Limbo--and a group of outlaws is using them to lure passing spaceships and loot them.
Dane and the rest of the crew manage to save themselves and stymie the bad guys, and the Patrol shows up just in time to round up the bad guys and cart them off to prison.
It's a decent enough adventure story, but there is nothing beneath the surface. Norton doesn't even attempt to explore the oddities of Limbo. For one thing, there is native intelligent life, but Norton relegates them to unimportance.
There's nothing wrong with Sargasso of Space, but anyone over 14 years old would be hard pressed to enjoy it.