Voodoo Planet by Andre Norton (1959)

Self-awareness is difficult. To be honest with yourself you have to be willing to see yourself in an unflattering light and have the clarity to self-diagnose. This combination is rare. Even those who possess both of these qualities don’t possess them all the time. Philosophical, religious, and creativity clarity are frequently portrayed as intermittent. Self-awareness is similar. In this story, the main characters experience old-school, ritualistic magic. They wonder if the things they see are real physical manifestations or hypnotic images beamed into their minds. Many times they are a combination of both. Reality and illusion are so intertwined that they cannot tell which is which. I’ve never trusted my senses or memory implicitly. If the body of evidence in the present moment contradicts the past, I assume the present is real and act accordingly. Long story short, I would have died in this book. Sometimes you should trust yourself.

In this sequel to Plague Ship, the Solar Queen is about to start a mail route between planets on the edge of human exploration. While retooling the ship for mail transport, a Chief Ranger from Kafka, a planet known for its big game hunting, consults the occupants of the Solar Queen. Kort Asaki, the Chief Ranger, recruits three members of the Solar Queen’s crew to help him with a problem on Kafka. Asaki is particularly interested in Medic Tau who investigates ritualistic magic as a hobby and is deeply knowledgable on the subject. Kafka has a long history of ritualistic magic but it is not frequently dangerous. Recently, a magic-man has been swaying many of Asaki’s people and he wants to know if this impressive mans powers are real. Be prepared for some bushwhacking as the trio of Dan Thurson, Captain Jellico, and Medic Tau investigate the Voodoo Planet.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/18846

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/voodoo-planet-by-andre-norton/

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Plague Ship by Andre Norton (1956)

As an avid reader, I like to read from different perspectives. This doesn’t mean I enjoy contorting myself in weird ways physically while reading. I just enjoy seeing how different people think about the world. This means I seek out authors of different backgrounds. As someone who reads almost entirely out-of-copyright books, this is a challenge. Minority authors are scarce and concentrated in a few select genres. While there are many strong female authors who specialized in writing dramas, adventures, detective novels and murder mysteries, the number of female authors writing science fiction used to be incredibly tiny. For some weird reason, sci-fi wasn’t a genre that women broke into until fairly recently. I am happy to say that this great book is written by the award winning sci-fi author Alice Mary Norton who wrote under many different pseudonyms over her long career. This is one of her earlier stories and we are lucky that it has fallen into the public domain. I read the entire book assuming it was penned by a man because of the pseudonym. I am pleasantly surprised to be wrong.

Dale Thurson is going with his senior Van Rycke to negotiate with the Salariki, an intelligent alien race native to Sargol who are descended from felines. The planet of Sargol has these precious Koros stones which are all the rage around the galaxy. They fetch big prices so the crew of the Solar Queen wants to trade for them. They are making slow progress however. What do the Salariki want in trade? They seem disinterested in many of the good brought by the freetraders to Sargol. Eventually the crew finds out that the Salariki prize fragrant herbs that aren’t native to Sargol. They trade the minuscule amount of herbs that they have and head back to Terra. The journey to Terra will be more exciting than usual; their ship has been labelled a Plague Ship.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/plague-ship-by-andre-norton/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16921

Lone Star Planet by H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire (1958)

Even though I’m American I’m not a big fan of guns. My reasoning is simple: I don’t like loud noises and I have no use for guns in my daily life. Other people can use them but I avoid them. By this reasoning I would not feel at home on the Lone Star Planet. The people and government of New Texas are caricatures of Texas around the time of the Civil War. It bears little or no resemblance to the modern powerhouse that Texas is in the 21st century. Texas has a similar GDP to Canada and is successful in a diverse set of industries beyond oil for which it is famous. I think that modern Texas would be a much better foundation for a country than the caricature presented in this book but that’s not the point. Instead, it presents a thought experiment about the furthest possible outcome.

Stephen Silk, a politician from the Solar Embassy, is sent as punishment for insubordination to the planet of New Texas. When warp drive became cheap enough, the citizens of Texas jetted off to find a planet where they could really be free from government oversight and live how they wanted to live. This is a headache for the Solar Embassy which has business relations with and interest in New Texas but no political capital. On the flight to New Texas Ambassador Silk learns that the first solar ambassador bought land on New Texas and became a businessman, the second solar ambassador went crazy, the third solar ambassador killed himself, and the fourth solar ambassador was murdered a month ago. After reading about his predecessors, Mr. Silk is not looking forward to his new position on New Texas. Keep your gun in hand while working on the Lone Star Planet.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/lone-star-planet-by-h-beam-piper-and-john-j-mcguire/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/20121

Roman Collar Detective by Grace and Harold Johnson (1953)

Good priests have the tools to be excellent detectives. At least this is my first impression as I scratch my head and wrack my brains pondering the different types of crime fighting sleuths. There are the clinical and scientific, the part time sleuth with a flair for the dramatic, the eccentric the dogged and determined with their nose-to-the-ground, the good natured and absent minded, and bumbling detectives but detectives of the cloth have distinct style all their own. The only other religious detective is the always scandalous Father Brown who is an old favorite. He approaches the role of the detective with compassion while attempting to think like the criminal instead of relying on pesky clues. I sort of wish every priest was a detective. The world would be more exciting.

Just back from the Korean War, Captain Bill meets his brother, Father Tim, who is busy preparing for the Church Fair. Right now they are painting booths and hanging banners in preparation for the fundraiser. Captain Bill, tired after a days work, decides to walk home or rather limp home. His leg got shot up by a machine gun in Korea and he is recovering slowly. While hobbling past a home on the edge of town, he hears someone sneak from the shadows and feels the hot barrel of a handgun in the small of his back. Unable to confront the rogue, he is told to hold and fire another hand gun. Then, he is told to run along or he’ll get shot. The Captains impulsive nature leads him to walk away and hide in the bushes. He sees a shadow run across the porch and throw a gun through the window. Fearing that the gun with his prints was used in some crime he enters the home and wipes his fingerprints from the gun. At this moment, the homeowners enter to find a dead body in one room and the Captain with a gun in the other. Can the Captain convince the police that he has been framed? Kneel and pray for the Roman Collar Detective.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/roman-collar-detective-by-grace-and-harold-johnson/

Murder Takes the Veil by Margaret Ann Hubbard (1950)

Books don’t usually scare me because I frequently avoid books that have the express intent of instilling fear upon their readers. The books that I’m drawn to have drama of course but rarely constant lurking mortal danger. My favorite types of novels are either detective or humor fiction so creeping fear based stories rarely fall in my lap. This book definitely scared me. Listening to this before bed alone in a dark house looking out the window into the moonlight is better than coffee to keep yourself awake and alert. I wonder why I didn’t struggle falling asleep that night. Oh well.

Trillium Pierce is in for a stressful few weeks. At first she is nervous because she asked her mom for permission to join the convent. She has gone to school at a convent for the past seven years and is about to graduate as a high school senior.  The peace and tranquility of this lifestyle appeals to her long term. The letter she receives has a very different message. Her mother has found a lead, a witness, that may help catch the murderer of Trillium’s father. Trillium becomes paranoid immediately and second guesses her decision to join the convent. In this flustered state she is tasked to deliver a letter to one of the three new male teachers, the three geniuses. Each one has a specialty: painting, athletics and writing. On entering their joint accommodations she sees a small broken statue and is struck with overwhelming dread. That statue was taken from her house by her father’s murderer seven years ago. He is now at her college and he may be looking to finish what he started. Dress up like a nun and listen for the church bells while reading Murder Takes the Veil.

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/murder-takes-the-veil-by-margaret-ann-hubbard/

Murder in the Gunroom by H. Beam Piper (1953)

As an American who didn’t grow up with guns in the house most of my exposure to guns has been through stories. Movies, television shows, books and articles portray guns as dangerous weapons. The obvious leap in logic suggests that gun owners must also be dangerous people. This is clearly a fallacy but a hard one to overcome nonetheless. Modern media is filled with stories of gun accidents and shootings which naturally force the reader to question: what is at fault? Handguns and automatics used in wars and combat can easily be blamed for these deaths and injuries but blaming all collectors of dangerous things is foolish and leaves little room for nuance. This book gives a good look inside the minds of multiple gun collectors and enthusiasts as a backdrop to a compelling murder mystery. If I were the NRA, I would recommend this book to help people comprehend some motivations for gun ownership.

Lane Flemming’s accidental death was always suspicious. The idea that this old gun collector would accidentally shoot himself was silly at best. A samurai doesn’t accidentally wound himself with his sword because he is trained in the safe handling of the weapon. The same is true for the gun owner. Private detective and amateur gun collector Colonel Jefferson Davis Rand is hired to appraise Flemming’s gun collection and sell it to the highest bidder. As Jeff attempts to catalog the weapons, he gets dragged into the mystery. How did Lane Flemming really die and where are the missing guns from his collection? Put on your bulletproof vest and read Murder in the Gunroom.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/17866

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/murder-in-the-gunroom-by-h-beam-piper/

Space Prison by Tom Godwin(1958)

The last hope of human civilization a new life on Athena had disappeared. Even though they’d taken every precaution a Gern cruiser had still somehow found our ship flying halfway between Earth and our new home on Athena. We had no choice but to surrender. Gern blasters cut through our control room killing most of the officers and our hopes of escape. Our leader surrendered hoping to spare the lives of the crew. Instead the Gerns enslaved the strongest of us and left the rest of us to fend for ourselves on the inhospitable planet of Ragnarok. This is the story of man against the elements and the triumph of human ingenuity in difficult circumstances.

Space Prison was a splendid fast paced read that always kept me guessing. Tom Godwin did a great job of creating a vivid portrayal of living on the harsh world that is Ragnarok. So grab a Gern blaster and fight for life on this Space Prison.

free ebook download: http://manybooks.net/titles/godwint2254922549.html

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/space-prison-by-tom-godwin/