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

Supermind by Mark Phillips (1963)

(Note: This is the final book in the series. First read Brain Twister.)

This writing partnership crafts incredibly snarky dialogue. Each character is like a stand up comic riffing on everything and anything happening around them. There are plenty of exciting things to riff on from teleportation to telepathy to an international conspiracy. This book has it all. When I finished reading the last chapter, I felt a little sad as if I was saying goodbye to an old friend. Funny little books like this one leave me undecided. Do I reserve my highest praise for the “classics” or do I speak highly of the unusual books that I just can’t put down? In the end, I think there is a place for a wacky sci-fi book like this one that doesn’t ask the big questions but enchants me with amusing characters, bizarre situations and witty dialogue.

Kenneth J. Malone has tackled telepathic spies and teleporting thieves but this is his hardest test yet. He is tasked with finding out who or what is causing inefficiencies in the government. Not the normal bureaucratic inefficiency. A new unusual phenomenon that seems to be affecting all levels of government. How do you find something that you can’t name and you don’t understand? Follow Malone as he tries to answer these tough questions and detect the Supermind.

 

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22342

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/supermind-by-laurence-m-janifer/

Brain Twister by Mark Phillips (1962)

Have you ever purchased a soda from a vending machine and two popped out? This book is a similar sweet surprise. I acknowledge that I’m not well read but it still took me unawares when I realized that this was a sci-fi humor novel instead of the assumed sci-fi action thriller. Is sci-fi humor a thriving sub genre that falls through the cracks not fitting into either the sci-fi or humor bookshelves at the store? The world needs more genre bending books even if a large portion feel half baked and end up falling flat. I always applaud the courage needed to try something different. Brain Twister does not fall flat. Instead it is positively enchanting and singularly hilarious. Fans of witty dialogue will enjoy this book immensely.

Kenneth J. Malone wakes up early to the ringing of his phone. His boss, the head of the FBI, tells him its an emergency. The emergency is unusual. A telepath is reading the minds of the scientists at a top secret government research facility and Malone is on the case. First, he must answer a series of difficult and absurd questions. How did we detect the telepath? How do we find the telepath? How do we stop the telepath? To answer these questions Malone is pulled all  across the US with hilarious results. You must be this tall to read Brain Twister.

 

free audiobook download: https://librivox.org/brain-twister-by-mark-phillips/

free ebook download: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22332

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/

The Blue Germ by Maurice Nicoll(1917)

I don’t know of many books this compact and this thought provoking. You, the reader, embark on a journey through a world forced to cope with immortality. Two scientists discover, cultivate and release a germ that rids the body of all other germs. Things do not go as planned. People do not become immortal but they become close. They are impervious to disease. The amazing part is how far the author goes down this rabbit hole. He takes immortality to its furthest possible conclusion. I encourage you to question your world by reading The Blue Germ. 


free ebook download: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/26852