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    Review of THE TIME TRADERS by Andre Norton

    Baen, July 2001 (Original editions, 1958/1959)

    Russ Murdock has lived by his wits for years. Sure they seem to have him now, but he's sure he can wiggle his way free from whatever the law wants to do with him. He's quick to volunteer for a project rather than be sent to jail but he doesn't anticipate that the project will put him somewhere inside the artic circle, or that he's been selected as one of the group of Americans sent back through time to try to learn how the Russians have been getting a jump on American scientists.

    In the Bronze Age, disguised as one of the Beaker People, Russ learns that the Russians have learned the disguises the Americans are using--and have launched attacks on their bases. Alone in a world thousands of years in the past, Russ must not only survive, he's got to learn where the Russians have their base, whether they're learning scientific secrets from some Atlantan civilization--or from some strnager source, and then make contact with his fellow Americans. It's a tall order--but all of those years of sneaking and criminal activity turn out to have some benefits after all.

    In the second volume in this two-in-one omnibus, Russ is joined by Apache rancher Travis Fox in the search for an alien spaceship set in the distant past. But when they try to return the ship to the present, something goes frighteningly wrong and their party blasts off into galactic space. Will they find advanced civilizations waiting to pounce, or has civilization faded--and a new galactic dark age ensued?

    Author Andre Norton (see more reviews of novels by Norton) writes a wonderful young adult-oriented adventure. I first read these novels (they were initially released as two separate volumes) when I was an early teen--the 'golden years of science fiction' and remember it fondly. I wondered when I picked up this more recent edition, whether my memories were true, or if I've become more discriminating (or harsh) over the years. Norton's sense of adventure was dead-on in these stories, though, with plenty of twists, dangerous moments, and cliff-hangers.

    When I first read this book, I was blown away by Norton's description of a computer game. Remember, this was written in the 1950s. In this edition, the computer game has been updated a bit (more graphical) but I don't know that this update was necessary. After all, who else was thinking about computer games back then? The concept of time travel is nothing new, but combining time travel with space was a nice touch.

    Back in the 1950s and 1960s, much of Science Fiction targeted the young adult reader. Clearly, from recent the Harry Potter explosion, this market still exists and has an appetite for exactly this kind of story. Some of the science is dated, the technology Norton describes is a bit laughable (do we really think aliens who develop hyperdrives will really have cockpits lined with wires?), and coincidence plays too big a role, but these didn't bother me as a young adult and they're only minor quibbles now.

    Four Stars

    Reviewed 12/18/07

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    What do you think? Too generous? Too stingy? Or did I miss the entire point? Send your comments to Give me the okay to use your name and I'll publish all the comments that fit (and don't use unprintable language).

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