cover image Time Traders II: The Defiant Agents & Key Out of Time

Time Traders II: The Defiant Agents & Key Out of Time

Andre Norton. Baen Books, $19 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-671-31968-7

This omnibus-volume reprint of two Norton novellas, The Defiant Agents (1962) and Key Out of Time (1963), showcases the science fiction grand master's stylish way with a space-time adventure yarn. In a brave new future Earth, a doughty team of American Time Agents races evil Soviets to gain control of new worlds revealed by navigational tapes left 10,000 years earlier by the galactic-tripping Baldies, aliens who aimed at universal conquest. In The Defiant Agents, ethnic Apache Travis Fox and his team travel to Topaz, an arid planet where they must pit their newly awakened Amerindian racial memories against fierce Mongol descendants sent by the Russians to take over Topaz for themselves. Key Out of Time follows maverick Time Agent Ross Murdock to Hawaika, an aquatic world where he must unite three clashing cultures--Viking-like sea raiders, Dark Age land-based Wreckers and the mystic Foanna--to repel the Baldie baddies. Several of Norton's trademark touches, now familiar because of her strong influence on younger authors, enliven the Time Agent derring-dos, like the pair of telepathic coyotes who scout for Fox on Topaz and the similarly equipped merry dolphins who accompany Murdock's Polynesian sea maid on Hawaika. Given the space-time restrictions of the novella form, Norton's aliens, especially the elegant, elegaic Foanna, maintain their attraction, though her Cold War frame story and her simplistic action set pieces seem dated today. (Feb.)