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Literature / Solar Queen

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Space opera series by Andre Norton, recounting the adventures and misadventures of an interstellar trading vessel named the Solar Queen, and its assistant cargo master Dane Thorson.

  1. Sargasso of Space (1955)
  2. Plague Ship (1956)
  3. Voodoo Planet (1959)
  4. Postmarked the Stars (1969)
  5. Redline the Stars (1993, with P. M. Griffin)
  6. Derelict for Trade (1997, with Sherwood Smith)
  7. A Mind for Trade (1997, with Sherwood Smith)

This series contains examples of:

  • Alien Catnip: In Plague Ship, catnip itself is alien catnip. The protagonists are trying to trade with a Cat Folk race for valuable gemstones. The problem is, the aliens are unwilling to sell the gems for regular goods... but once they get a sniff of catnip and valerian...
  • Catapult Nightmare: Postmarked the Stars begins with Dane Thorson dreaming that he's crawling through steamy, greasy mud. He wakes up with a gasp and pushes himself up to a seated position.
  • Cat Folk: The Salariki in Plague Ship, primitive Proud Warrior Race Guys with a fondness for the Earth substance called "catnip".
  • Caught on Tape: In Plague Ship, representatives of one of the big trading corporations tried to push the Free Traders into giving up a lucrative trade arrangement. They made a not-especially veiled threat of armed attack, mentioning that they were far away from any authorities who might defend the Free Traders. And then J. Van Rycke pulled a small disc out of a belt pouch and commented, "Very interesting. I shall treasure this recording—"
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  • Derelict Graveyard: In space! Sargasso of Space: a Forerunner installation on the planet Limbo had dragged many ships to their destruction over the eons.
  • Dream Intro: Postmarked the Stars begins with Dane Thorson dreaming that he's crawling through steamy, greasy mud. He wakes up and finds himself not in a humid, gluey swamp but in a room in a small, cheap inn near a spaceport.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Postmarked the Stars has a settlement cut off by radio jamming call for aid by generating a counter-pulse in a simple on-off code. When the settler asked what code to use, he was told to use something simple.
  • Fantastic Drug: Sargasso of Space describes a drug called crax seed, apparently chewed like tobacco (there's a reference to someone having spit out a crax cud). While high on the stuff, you're lots faster, stronger, and smarter than normal. When you come down, you come down hard: "What occurred to them later was not pretty at all."
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  • Flying Dutchman: In Sargasso of Space, it's mentioned that the Solar Queen's Cargo Master collects space folklore and is very good at re-telling the stories, especially the story of a ship called the New Hope, which lifted off full of refugees, never landed anywhere, and now is only sighted by ships which are themselves in dire trouble.
  • Gravity Sucks: Justified in Sargasso of Space, where the entire planet was turned by The Precursors into a superweapon capable of generating a very powerful gravity-like field that pulls spaceships from afar (possibly even from hyperspace) and crashes them on the surface of the planet.
  • Great Offscreen War: In Plague Ship, the Solar Queen lands on Earth in the middle of a radioactive wasteland. The few clues given indicate that this is all that remains of central Europe, destroyed in a nuclear war a long time ago.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The Salariki (Cat Folk) in Plague Ship.
  • Magical Negro: The depiction of the tribal elders in Voodoo Planet, in the Solar Queen series, is a bit too close for comfort for modern readers, even if their culture is sympathetic in other ways, such as being founded by Africans escaping from a concentration camp.
  • The Plague: In Plague Ship, fear of this trope means that the titular ship can't seek help through legitimate channels, as they will be destroyed without trial if their status is known.
  • Pulling the Rug Out: How Frank Mura and Dane Thorson capture the antagonist of Sargasso of Space.
  • Rock Beats Laser: In Sargasso of Space, traders ambush pirates' crawlers and beat pirates with thrown stones. They did have rayguns too, but they didn't want to attract attention.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The Free Trader ship Solar Queen is described as both "small" and "needle-slim." It's also clearly a rocket shape. But when Norton explains the accommodations on a single deck within that "small" hull, it's clear that to have "needle-slim" proportions at that size, it'd need to be about the height of a Saturn V.
  • Space Police: The Patrol.
  • The Tokyo Fireball: Sargasso of Space has a brief mention that centuries before, "volcanic action, followed by tidal waves, had overwhelmed a whole nation in two days and a night—so that Japan had utterly ceased to be—washed from the maps of Terra."
  • True Companions: The crew of the Solar Queen forms a very tight bond amongst themselves throughout the series. Free Traders collectively regard themselves as true companions in contrast to the larger trading corporations (although they freely and very roughly compete with one another).

Alternative Title(s): Sargasso Of Space, Plague Ship, Voodoo Planet, Postmarked The Stars


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