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Plague Ship by Andre Norton

Plague Ship (1956)

by Andre Norton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Solar Queen (2)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
First off - my scifi reading background for reference: I started out reading mostly contemporary 00's-10's science fiction, and occasionally read very few of the early scifi works of 1920's and 1930's.

This was my first Andre Norton book.

Even taking into the account the fact that Plague Ship was written in the 50's I found it utterly unimpressive, very flat, with highly improbable characters, aliens, and their interaction.
The story didn't have much to it. I did manage to get some salvage out of the book - like some small curious ideas mainly to do with the microecology of the ship. But in the end not a good read for a contemporary science fiction enthusiast at this day and age. ( )
  Vvolodymyr | Oct 14, 2012 |
The first time I read this, I was chewing my fingernails down to the bone trying to see how the Queen would get out of this one. Of course, I was maybe nine then. This time - a few tense moments, though I knew in general all would be well, and several belly laughs - on Sargol, on the ship (Sinbad's reaction to the critters, and the Hoobat's hunting technique), and the ending. I do like Dane. The oddest thing about this series is how firmly it _is_ a series; again, the end of this one sets up and foreshadows the next book. Fun. And having read later books, including the more recent co-written ones - events echo forward as well, Derelict for Trade in particular makes a lot of references to Plague Ship, from them having been Posted to what they would have done had they truly been infected. It makes things very rich. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | Jun 19, 2011 |
Given that this was written in the mid-50s, this holds up pretty well, and while the basic concept comes across as a little dated (a starship travelling to exotic, alien planets looking for goods to trade), it actually holds up fairly well. After I started reading it I found out that it is actually the second adventure of the solar queen and its crew, but I don't think I missed anything by not having read the first book, as this holds up well on its own.

The Solar Queen is an independent trader that has lucked out in gaining the trading contract to an exotic new planet. The crew go through the delicate process of ingratiating themselves with the local tribes so that they can trade for highly-prized gemstones that they have access to. Despite the attempts by a major corporation to muscle in on their patch, they succeed in closing the deal, only to find after they have left the planet that crew members start falling sick from a mysterious illness. The ship is branded a 'plague ship' which is barred from landing on any human planet. A few of the youngest crew members have to find a way to beat the blockade, find put what's causing the illness and find someone who can cure it. Not an easy proposition (but for the reader, a reasonably entertaining one).

Overall this is a decent read, without being anything mind blowing. Some of the actions of the crew, and the plot twists don't always seem very logical, but serve the purpose of making the story more dramatic. The ending also seems to owe much to a Deus Ex Machina moment. I can't say this was a great read, but it wasn't a waste of time either. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Sep 9, 2010 |
I wasn't terribly happy with this book. I listened to it on a trip a couple years ago using the Librivox reading, and quit two-thirds the way through. I picked the hard-copy up to finish it recently, and found the finish to be as unimpressive as I expected. To start with, why yes, of course the cat people love catnip. More importantly, given the non-dystopic future, when the plague ship of the title shows up, the government would have devoted resources to at least convince its occupants that they will get medical help of some sort, and they don't need to panic and start doing stupid things. This government, on the other hand, would rather let them die, so surprise, surprise, the occupants of the ship panic and start doing stupid things to stay alive. And they continue to do stupid and grossly illegal things until they succeed in escaping their dilemma, at which point the government, instead of punishing them for major felonies including armed kidnapping, basically gives them a slap on the wrist and sends them on their next adventure. Perhaps I was demanding more of realism than I should have, but it was social realism, not scientific realism, that I was demanding. ( )
1 vote prosfilaes | Jul 14, 2009 |
Plague Ship by Andre Norton (Alice Mary Norton) is one of the 130 novels the author wrote, so we may be able to excuse an opening sentence as dreadful as the one above. Maybe she was having an off day. Plague Ship is pulp, as one can tell from the cover, and probably not very good pulp at that. It's a rather mundane story, frankly. A ship full of traders travel to a newly discovered planet, exchange goods with the cat-like natives who live there, and head home only to discover they have picked up a strange virus which makes them officially a plague ship, unable to land on earth (Terra) or any other planet inhabited by humans.

But it's in the book's mundane aspects that one can find something fairly interesting. Take away the rockets and the aliens and Plague Ship becomes a novel about business, about work. Not a glamorous, soap opera kind of story full of beautiful, backstabbing women, but a story about how business deals are actually transacted; the negotiations, the problems with delivery, the interpersonal struggles to please all of the parties involved, the squabbles with the competition. Real everyday life buried inside a piece of interplanetary pulp fiction.

Book critic Maureen Corrigan has written about the overall disappearance of work in modern fiction. There was a time when books about work were commonplace. Horatio Alger stories come immediately to mind, but descriptions of people trying to be successful in the workplace, trying to do their jobs well, used to be a regular feature in all sorts of fiction. Even a novel about psychological breakdown like Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar (1963) has long sections about how to become successful at work, in Ms. Plath's case as a magazine writer. Ms. Corrigan believes that the last bastion of work in modern fiction is the detective story. Detective novels are about work above all. They may feature exciting scenes and exotic characters, but the main focus of the novel is how the detective does the job. It surprised me to discover that this is basically what science fiction, especially 1950's pulp science fiction is about. How will business men go about their business in the future, when we can travel to and trade with distant planets? Plague Ship provides one possible answer.

Is it an undiscovered gem? Not in my view. But it does provide a window on the past which may be strange for a novel about the future. By projecting the concerns and interests of her contemporary readers on the question of what their futures may be like, Ms. Norton gives us a glimpse into the psyche of her own time. ( )
  CBJames | Mar 13, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andre Nortonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nelson, MarkNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warner, MichaelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Dane Thorson, Cargo-master-apprentice of the Solar Queen, Galactic Free Trader spacer, Terra registry, stood in the middle of the ship's cramped bather while Rip Shannon, assistant Astrogator and his senior in the service of Trade by some four years, applied gobs of highly scented paste to the skin between Dane's rather prominent shoulder blades.
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From the back:

Lured by exotic gems and valuable oils the crew of the space trader Solar Queen landed on the newly discovered planet Sargol only to find their most ruthless competitor there ahead of them. Still, they tried for fair trade, even according to the sly rules of the strangely feline, native Saliriki.

But after takeoff they found they had a plague on board, the trachery of someone who'd been on Sargo. Although they'd begun to run out of supplies, they couldn't land or they might start an interplanetary epideimc...

...And the galaxy had orderd that the Solar Queen be destroyed on sight!
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0441668364, Mass Market Paperback)

Rip¿s dark fingers halted their circular motion. ¿Dane ¿ he warned ¿don¿t you go talking against this venture. We got it soft and we¿re going to be credit-happy¿if it works out¿¿' (Excerpt)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:44 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In the distant future, interstellar trade is as vital to survival as were the spice trading missions of the medieval and early modern periods. In Plague Ship, science fiction author Andre Norton details a series of interstellar trade missions that don't go exactly as planned, leading to unforeseen consequences that have the potential to imperil the delicate economic balance of the entire galaxy.… (more)

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