" The things that make us happy make us wise" John Crowley, Little Big

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Galactic Derelict  by Andre Norton, Ace Books D-498, 1959, cover by Ed Emshwiller.

" All the classic elements are present in full measure in Galactic Derelict. It suffers not at all in being a sequel to Andre Norton's excellent Time Traders." Galaxy Magazine.

This is the second volume in Norton's Time Traders series. You could probably read Galactic Derelict without having read The Time Traders, Norton does supply  enough back story in this book to fill in the gaps. But if you are going to read Galactic Derelict first, I would suggest you stop reading now because I am going to assume you are reading the books in order. 

This volume starts with Travis Fox a young Apache range rider scouting for water holes for his brother Whelan's cattle. Travis is conflicted, he is pushing into a new area based on the traditional wisdom of his Apache mentor, an old man named Chato. He knows his brother would disapprove, Whelan has no use for traditional knowledge, he prefers to live as a member of the non-native culture, or "white-eyes" as Travis calls them. It is while exploring the desert canyons that Fox stumbles upon a group of men in the process of building some kind of scientific installation. Fox is captured by one of these men, it turns out to be Ross Murdoch, armed with an unusual sidearm. Fox is taken into camp and questioned by the archaeologist Gordon Ashe, whose name he recognizes. It seems Fox was studying archaeology at the local university until a wealthy donor threatened to suspend funding for any projects employing Native Americans. So Travis Fox's suspicions of the non-native culture seem perfectly reasonable. After learning of Fox's interest in archaeology Ashe and Ross show Fox a series of Folsom Points, 10,000 year old spear points, used by an early Native American culture. After examining the points Fox can distinguish between  
10,000 years old points and identical modern copies. Upon examining the Ross's handgun he is amazed to find out that it is even older that the genuine Folsom points. It seems Travis Fox is a time guesser. This ability, a check of his archaeological credentials and his experience as a Native American rancher and hunter result in Fox being offered a place on the Project Folsom One. It seems that Ashe, Murdoch and Fox are going to be disguised as Folsom Hunters and sent back in time to locate the remains of the same type of alien spacecraft discovered by the Russians in bronze age Europe in The Time Traders. Soon the team is off, encountering Folsom hunters, saber toothed tigers, dire wolves, mammoths, active volcanoes and several crashed spaceships along the way.

The Beast Master, Harcourt Brace & Co., cover by Richard M. Powers

 Norton has always included minority characters in her stories. In 1959-1960 she wrote three novels with Native American protagonists,  Galactic Derelict in 1959 with Travis Fox an Apache, Beastmaster in 1959, with the Dineh (Navaho) character Hosteen Storm and in 1960 The Sioux Spaceman, with Kade Whitehawk a Sioux. In the passage below Norton mentions a Native American ancestor, which may explain some of her interest in native culture and characters. 

"My family history in America begins in 1634. Although we are the last of the Eastern branch of the Norton family line, I heard several years ago from a family member in one of the Western branches. She told me that my uncle, who was a great deal older than my father, had five daughters, and the last one of these had just celebrated her one hundredth birthday. It is unfortunate that mother's history was never documented. We know that there had been an Indian marriage way back. Mother's mother had three brothers who had served in the Civil War, and her fiance was killed in the Battle of Gettysburg."

A conversation with Andre Norton
by John L. Coker III 


The Beast Master cover Ed Valigursky, The Sioux Spaceman cover Ed Valigursky

I thought this was a good sequel to The Time Traders, it is not a repetition of the earlier book, the is plot are quite different with Fox becoming the main character. There is lots of action, some interesting twists and it is certainly not predictable. With the addition of Travis Fox, Norton also expands the range of the story adding a level of complexity that will resonate through the next two volumes in the series.


It is interesting that in both books in this series, time travel is simply a mechanism  allowing the team to encounter aliens and space travel. In Galactic Derelict after locating the alien ship Fox, Murdoch, Ashe and the technician Renfry are accidentally launched into space, while the ship, following some preset course takes them on a tour of several alien planets. This theme of stowaways on spacecraft, intentional or otherwise is a common one in SF and Norton handles it well.

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