Time Travel, Aliens and The Red Menace…

The first Andre Norton book I ever read was Storm Over Warlock. I first read it sometime between 1970 and 1972 and I immediately became a lifelong fan of author Andre Norton. I hunted down every Norton book I could find, in every genre she wrote in. Andre Norton was a very prolific author. She (and yes, Andre Norton was really Alice Mary Norton) wrote books set in ancient Egypt, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the modern day of the 1960s-1970s, the far future, and fantastic other worlds. Andre Norton’s heroes and heroines were pirates, privateers, princes, rebellious ladies, spies, Cold War combatants, explorers, spaceship crewmen, interplanetary refugees, criminals, wizards, and witches, and so much more.

Andre Norton, called The Lady by her many fans, has won many awards for her books and her influence on the SF&F world. Among her many awards she was awarded the Plaque of Honor from the Netherlands Government in 1946 for her book The Sword is Drawn. Andre Norton was the first woman awarded the Grand Master of Fantasy (Gandalf) Award at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1977. In 1979, she won the Balrog Fantasy Award for Life Achievements. In 1984, Norton won the Nebula Grand Master Award. She was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1997. Many of today’s SF&F authors claim Andre Norton as their early inspiration. Andre Norton certainly had a big impact on my life. She led me to a lifelong love of science fiction and fantasy and also science and history. And she very definitely led me to a lifelong love of books.

Storm Over Warlock was the first Andre Norton book I read but it was only my second favorite Norton story. My absolute favorite story was The Time Traders. The Time Traders was written in 1958. I don’t remember exactly when I first read the book. I do remember taking it out of the public library multiple times and I still have the original paperback version that I bought sometime back in 1974. The Time Traders starts out with young criminal, Ross Murdock, facing the choice of jail time or “volunteering” for a secret government mission. Ross “volunteers” but has no intention of staying for long. His escape attempt is aborted when he discovers a “Red” spy. Since Ross was returning to the base with his captive spy, he is allowed to remain with Operation Retrograde. He is quickly immersed in the secret operation which involves united Western nations using time travel to hunt for a hidden “Red” or Soviet Union base that has somehow gained access to miraculous technology. The “Red” base is hidden somewhere in the distant past and Operation Retrograde is sending agents like Ross back in time to try to locate the base. But the enemy base is alert to the Western agents and Ross and his team run into trouble. Ross is captured by the “Reds” and, while trying to escape, discovers the true origins of their strange new technology.

The protagonist of The Time Traders, Ross Murdock, was my very favorite part of the book. He was young, smart, strong-willed, determined, and very brave. My teenage heart went pitty-pat. When the “Reds” tried to kill him, I was outraged. When the true owners of the miraculous technology hunt Ross and Ross is driven to desperate measures, I was on the edge of my seat. Ross embodied everything my teenage self thought was heroic. I loved the character so much that I immediately sought out the other books that followed the adventures of Ross Murdock:

The original four Ross Murdock books, written solely by Andre Norton
1). The Time Traders (1958)
2). Galactic Derelict (1959)
3). The Defiant Agents (1962)
4). Key Out of Time (1963)

More Ross Murdock books written by Norton in collaboration with other authors
5). Firehand (1994) with Pauline M. Griffin
6). Echoes in Time (1999) with Sherwood Smith
7). Atlantis Endgame (2002) with Sherwood Smith

The original four books are all available for free in the Public Domain. I loved all of the original four though they are all quite different from each other. However, the three written with other authors just don’t feel like true Andre Norton books to me.

I was very happy, ecstatic in fact, to discover that The Time Traders is still as great a book now as it was when I first read it. Ross is still a romantic hero, determined and brave. The “Reds” as enemies does not really date the book, because the book does not really read as if it was written in 1958. The Time Traders reads surprisingly modern. The language is clear and concise, the story speeds along nonstop, and Ross’ journey follows a familiar but exciting arc. In fact, I felt The Time Traders was actually better than I remembered. My favorite parts of the book were always the beginning, the last part of the middle, and, of course, the hair-raising pursuit at the end. But I always felt the first part of the middle, when Ross is taking his first steps into the past, slowed a bit. I was delighted to discover, on this read, that it seemed to zip right along just like the rest of the book. Maybe I enjoyed it more now because I know a bit more history than I did when I was a teen or maybe I was in to much of a hurry, when I was younger, to get to the more suspenseful chase. Whatever the reason, The Time Traders just flowed evenly along during this read.

The Time Traders is not a very long book, most of Andre Norton’s early books were marketed for a “boys’ market” and so are somewhat short (about 174 pages). The short length is great for readers who don’t have a lot of spare time but I would have liked to spend even more time following Ross Murdock’s adventures. Even though many of Norton’s books were considered young adult when they were first written, none of them ever slighted on the story or the characters. In fact, all of her books are now considered to be firmly in the mainstream SF&F market, and many of them are considered classics. I certainly consider The Time Traders to be a classic: timeless language, great characters,  rousing adventure, menacing enemies, a slight twist to the story, and lots of suspense.

I read The Time Traders for the first time back when I was 10 or 12 years old. I have read it uncountable times since. But I was very happy to discover that The Time Traders is just as good, in fact better, now as when I first read it. Luckily for fans of Andre Norton and Ross Murdock, and for readers who are interested in discovering a fantastic author and a great character, this book is free in the Public Domain.

One last note: Andre Norton apparently updated The Time Traders in 2000 but I spent several chapters going from one audio version to another to the epub book and back and did not notice any differences. I did not go through the entire book that way so maybe I just had not come across any changes yet. Or maybe the changes are so slight that I just did not notice.

Click here to go to Project Gutenberg and download a free copy of the book to read. There are many different formats to choose from.
Click here to go The Internet Archive and download a free copy to read.

Click here to listen to an free audio book at Internet Archive via Librevox, this is the original version of the book.
Click here to go directly to Librivox and listen to a free audio book, original version of The Time Traders.
Click here to download a free standard CD case cover for the original version of the story.
Click here to download a free slim CD case cover for the original version.

Click here to go to Librivox and listen to an free updated version of The Time Traders, updated by Andre Norton in 2000.
Click here to download a free standard CD case cover for the updated version of The Time Traders.
Click here to download a free slim CD case cover for the updated version.

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