Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Time Traders II: The Defiant Agents / Key Out of Time (Time Traders/Ross Murdock #3-4), by Andre Norton (author), Graham Rowat (narrator)

Tantor Audio, May 2021 (original publication January 2001) (The Defiant Agents original publication February 1962) (Key Out of Time original publication March 1963)

In The Defiant Agents, Travis Fox is part of a new and different mission, establishing a new colony on a habitable world, called Topaz, that's uninhabited now but may once have been part of the collapsed Galactic Empire that the Americans and Russians have both looted advanced technology from. The new colony will be composed mostly of Apaches like Travis. They have been subjected to a new process called Redax, that revives ancestral memory, the memories of their ancestors from the 19th century.

What they haven't been told is that the effects of Redax may leave them believing they really are Apaches of the 19th century. What no one knew is that the Russians are a little bit ahead of them in establishing a colony on Topaz, with Tatars. They've been subjected to a process similar to Redax, regressed to the memories of their Mongol ancestors.

The Russians have also established a circle of sentry satellites, to protect against unwanted intrusion. The American ship isn't destroyed, but it does crash, killing a significant part of the intended colony. Travis and the other survivors emerge into the new world, still heavily under the effects of Redax. Some emerge faster than others, but this has the effect of creating political tensions among them.

Meanwhile, there are also strains in the Russian colony, though the Russian machines weren't damage in a crash, nor the technicians responsible for operating them killed. The problems in the Russian colony are, it's fair to say, different.

The two groups meet, the two groups clash, and some among the Apaches as well as some among the Tatars realize they may have common interests--interests which are not served by the Russian techs remaining in control. The question is, can people with incomplete memories of their 21st century lives, and knives, spears, and bows and arrows as their only weapons, overcome the weapons and mind-control technology of a 21st century major power?

In Key Out of Time, Ross Murdock, his first partner and trainer Gordon Ashe, and Karara Trehern, a scientist teamed with two dolphins, Tino-rau and Taua, are part of an expedition to plant a Polynesian colony on the water world now named Hawaika. While exploring some unusual features near their landing site, they set up a "peep gate" to look at the past of the area, and it's clear there has been both civilization and conflict. A storm blows up, a major storm, and something goes wrong. They find themselves pulled through the gate, all five, into a past where conflict is clearly in progress. There are sea-going rovers or traders, a rough coast, and "wrecker lords" on the cliffs overlooking the coast. When ships are wrecked, the wreckers are there to collect the goods, including the survivors, at least the ones uninjured enough to be taken as slaves. The seriously wounded are killed.

But Ross, Ashe, and Karara and the dolphins have become separated, and need to find each other. We see this through Ross's viewpoint, and he reconnects with Karara and her dolphin partners fairly quickly--though not before he has seen, from hiding, a figure in an oddly colored cloak, with a wand with unusual and dangerous powers, intimidating the wreckers to claim some of the cargo and have it carried off by accompanying guards.

Ross and Karara need to find Ashe, figure out what's going on locally, and find out if they can get back to their own time. Along the way, they discover that the Baldies, the forces of the Galactic Empire that their advanced tech is taken from, are on this planet, too, but not yet in control.

Can they change history? Should they?

As is standard in Norton's science fiction from this period, the viewpoint character in both books is male. That's what was assumed to sell well at the time. Unlike some of her contemporaries, in each Norton also has a strong, intelligent, independent female character who plays a major role. There's good, solid storytelling here, and good characters, and altogether it's a solid, enjoyable read that holds up well and doesn't disappoint.

I bought this audiobook.

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