The Time Traders series by Andrew Norton consists of seven books in her Forerunner universe. The first four books were written in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My favorite book in the series, Firehand, was written in 1994 with Pauline M Griffith. The final two books of the series were written with Sherwood Smith in 1999 and 2002.
These are classic young adult science fiction stories written in a time when science fiction was still inspiring optimism for a brighter future. We meet our protagonist, Ross Murdock, in the first book, The Time Traders. He is a smart young man who is putting his brains to use in committing petty crimes. We begin the book with Murdock facing judgment in a courtroom. He is expecting the worst, but is shocked when the judge makes him an offer – accept volunteer service assignment for the government instead of being locked up. Ross is recruited to serve on a top secret project. Once he agrees, he is whisked off to a secret base in the Arctic where the basis for his new chance is explained to him.
Teach a man to kill, as in war, and then you have to recondition him later.
But during these same wars we also develop another type. He is the born commando, the secret agent, the expendable man who lives on action. There are not many of this kind, and they are potent weapons. In peacetime that particular collection of emotions, nerve, and skills becomes a menace to the very society he has fought to preserve during a war. He is pressured by the peaceful environment into becoming a criminal or a misfit.
The men we send out from here to explore the past are not only given the best training we can possibly supply for them, but they are all of the type once heralded as the frontiersman. History is sentimental about that type–when he is safely dead–but the present finds him difficult to live with. Our time agents are misfits in the modern world because their inherited abilities are born out of season now. They must be young enough and possess a certain brand of intelligence to take the stiff training and to adapt, and they must pass our tests.
Ross successfully completes the training, allowing him to go on missions into Earth’s past to retrieve alien artifacts. In future books Ross and his time agent friends will also travel by spaceship to different galaxies and planets.
The first four books have a pulp feel to them, which is nostalgic without seeming naive. The last three books have a more contemporary feel to them, which will make them more appealing to today’s younger readers. You can pick up the first four books free online, and if you are a fan of classic science fiction I recommend that you do. They are quick, enjoyable reads. It is regrettable that you cannot buy the entire collection as one e-book. It would be a great way to introduce your child or a friend to the world of science fiction.
Here is a list of the books of the Time Traders series in order:
- The Time Traders (1958) – free at Project Gutenberg
- Galactic Derelict (1959) – free at Feedbooks
- The Defiant Agents (1962) – free at Feedbooks
- Key Out of Time (1963) – free at Project Gutenberg
- Firehand (1994) (written with Pauline M Griffin)
- Echoes In Time (Trading for Time) (1999) (with Sherwood Smith)
- Atlantis Endgame: A New Time Traders Adventure (2002) (with Sherwood Smith)