Wasn’t Quite Sucked In To This Sargasso


Recently observing mounds of languishing Andre Norton novels has worked an opposite effect in me. It’s like the sign that says, “Hot: Do not touch!” and my instinct is that I want to touch it. What I mean by this is that I read one of Andre Norton’s novels. Said novel is written under her pseudonym Andrew North and the first installment of the Solar Queen series entitled Sargasso of Space. It might be overstatement to extrapolate an entire analysis of her work through one book but that’s what I’m going to do. But first, a summary.

Dane Thorson has just graduated cadet school and assigned a spot among an old trader ship, the Space Queen, with its ragtag band of explorers. When a fortuitous auction opportunity pops up, the ship’s crew scrounges together just enough cash to “buy” the planet Limbo in the hopes of a lucrative enterprise. Upon arrival of their new purchase, along with several suspicious but well-paying passengers aboard, the Space Queen and her pilots soon discover the planet’s auspices are more than they bargained for. As Limbo contrives to sucking in stray spaceships and crashing them upon its surface, confusion, abduction, and a search for the planet’s nefarious origin ensue.

As an aside, I find the novel’s titular allusion to the Sargasso Sea rather amusing. If you’re unfamiliar with this body of water (or if you haven’t read Jean Rhys novel, or you’re not a Bermuda Triangle conspiracy theorist), it is the only “sea” in the world whose borders are not dictated by land mass but rather by its own sustained currents and wind. The myth associated with this body of water is that it drags in ships. See the connection? In unfortunate contradistinction is that since the publication of Norton’s novel, this theory has been debunked.

But back to the review.

When looking at Andre Norton’s body of work you have to marvel as how consistently (an understatement) she pumped out novel after novel. Productively speaking, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s like she whipped out her calendar book, called her friends up and said, “Hey guys, can’t do anything this weekend. I’m locking myself in a room with my typewriter for the next 48 hours. But don’t worry, by Monday morning I’ll have completed an entire novel.” To this example, a writing marathon is, in some ways, what the novel read like. I don’t mean rushed. If a sample-size of one book can adequately proxy for the trajectory of her career, I declare: Andre Norton is an excellent story teller! But also: she’s not a great novelist.

Yes, I will explain. If we were sitting around a campfire and someone challenged us to tell a story from scratch, to just start on the spot and make it up as you go, Norton would be the all-time reigning champion. That’s what the narrative felt like. On the spot. Un-outlined. In the moment. Furthermore, if we were sitting around the campfire listening to her tell this story, I’d love it all. I’d be enamored, surprised, and a lot of other good things. But as a novel reader, I’m accustomed to a particular level of depth which was not present in this instance.

I can’t claim I was sucked in, but since the lion’s share of her novels don’t exceed 300 pages, if I need to revisit my theories, it wont take long to affirm or disprove them.

2/5 stars.

Anybody else in the internet world read Norton? Any recommendations for possible future reading?


Arthur Gallops to a Photo Finish in TH White’s The Once and Future King


As has been mentioned in previous posts, reviewing five-star books is a task better off eschewed because the most thorough analysis is superseded by the simple proclamation of “just read it!”

While tempted to do that now, I am encumbered with an additional complication after reading TH White’s The Once and Future King. Halfway through, I was unconvinced it deserved five star accolades, but the volume and scope of the novel has continued to wallop me in a delayed fashion and the more I ruminate on it, the more I’m liable to believe it is a five star book after all.

Only a cursory summary is needed as the story encapsulates almost the entirety of the Arthurian Legend starting from Arthur’s boyhood all the way up until his final battle as an aged patriarch. However, perhaps why novel is hitting me in waves is that initially (in all of part one, and half of part two) I was unprepared for the intense, insistent humor. I thought I was going to get the straight and classical telling of King Arthur so little did I know that TH White’s seminal work was a precursor to Mel Brooks’ Monthy Python and an accurately adapted Disney movie in The Sword and the Stone. You’ll understand then, why I was once again not ready for the narrative to turn from whimsical—even downright slapstick—to dark, to somber, and eventually to tragedy. It took a few days for my feelings to congeal.

But what a story! And what else to say?

In lieu of sounding off too long, here ends the review with the original decree: just read it. As feats of contemporary Olympic might are recording down to the millisecond, Arthur’s epic gets the same photo finish treatment: 4.92748/5 stars.