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Derelict for Trade by Andre Norton and Sherwood Smith
Published by Tor Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
Derelict for Trade by Andre Norton and Sherwood Smith is another collaboration between a well-known author and a junior partner, this time in the Solar Queen universe (Postmarked the Stars, etc). This novel begins with the Solar Queen low on fuel and making a very risky approach to a system when they are suddenly forced into snapout by an unexpected mass. Suddenly they don't have enough fuel to reach any destination, and they know that the salvage fees will bankrupt them.
However, the mass proves to be an abandoned ship, with enough fuel to get both vessels to the nearby habitat known as the Exchange. Humans share this artificial world with two other species, the insectoid Kanddoyd and the hulking Shver. Kanddoids are excruciatingly polite, so much so that they drown everything in flowery chatter to avoid risking offense. Shver are a militaristic species with a complex structure of clans and a tradition of duelling.
At first everything seems to be fine, and papers on the salvaged ship arrive quickly. Still, it seems too good to be true. They notice a few odd discrepancies about the papers, and when they question the problems, the bureaucracy suddenly turns against them. Nobody wants to deal with them, and the delaying tactics put them at risk of bankruptcy through docking fees.
In the meantime they discover a stowaway, who leads them to a whole society of outcasts living in the spin axis. Some deft questioning by the ship's doctor, who tries to help them, soon uncovers a sordid tale of piracy and near-slavery. She realizes that the Solar Queen might well have become a target.
Finally they find the undeniable evidence of the main plotter's identity and bring him to justice. Only then do they finally get proper papers on the salvaged ship, which they rename the North Star.
Click to buy Derelict for Trade in hardcover.
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Review posted May 19, 1999
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