Redline the Stars

~ 5th Novel in the Solar Queen Series by Andre Norton

Written with Pauline M. Griffin


Synopsis ~

Write-up from an old posting ~

The crew of the Free Trader vessel Solar Queen , flying under Capt. Miceal Jellico, has mixed reactions to new crewmate Rael Cofort, who is plying the space lanes as a jack-of-all-trades despite her position as a physician and status as sister of the successful rival Free Trader, Teague Cofort. Upon arriving at Canuche of Halio, the most advanced planet of the sector, the Queen's crew is endangered when Rael picks up the odor of man-eating rodents used in a gruesome gem-stealing scheme. Rael earns her mates' further respect with her gem-trading skills, but her warning of another, major, disaster reveals her true worth, leading the crew to accept her and prompting her to revise her original plans.


Write-up from the front flap of the 1993 dustjacket ~

It's been more than twenty years since the last Solar Queen novel was published. Memorable adventures like Sargasso of Space took the crew of the small interstellar trade ship across the rim of the galaxy in search of valuable cargo and profitable new markets. Business wasn't easy for small independents like the Solar Queen, but it kept Captain Jellico and his crew busy enough to keep the ship viable-and along the way, their adventures have entertained science fiction readers for decades.
No matter how perilous their voyages are, the crew has always survived, even Dane Thorson, the Cargo apprentice who seemed to bring his own luck to the ship. And now there's another new crew member: Rael Cofort, half-sister of one of the Queen's chief competitors. Attractive and competent, she just wanted passage to the new port of call, Canuche, in the Halios system. But what seems a simple run becomes a doubly dangerous mission as first a plague of rats and then an explosive crisis on the planetary star docks threaten to end the days of the Solar Queen and wipe out the population of Canuche’s capital as well.
It's do-or-die time for the Solar Queen...and her mysterious new crew member!


Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

When the interstellar trade ship Solar Queen lands at Canuche in Halio, Captain Jelico and his crew are faced with a plague of rats that threatens to decimate the ranks of the visiting spacefarers. And a major crisis is brewing at the heavy industrial docks, where a freighter loaded with explosive chemicals could blow up the Solar Queen along with the rest of the planet. And to top off the problems facing the Queen’s crew, there is Rael Cofort, the mysterious half-sister of their most powerful rival. Along for the ride to Canuche, she’s a medic, a talented, experienced spacer, and she wants to sign aboard the Queen. She seems to be the perfect shipmate, except somehow, all the trouble started when she arrived….
“Norton and her collaborator have worked to good effect in bringing back, after a lapse of too many years, the Free Trader starship Solar Quenn and her crew if independent-minded spacehounds.” – A.L.A. Booklist


Write-ups from fans ~

The crew of the Solar Queen have acquired another ship--a rather broken-down one that they used to take over the Trewsworld-Riginni mail run they had had to take over after the apprentices took over Terra SpacePort in an attempt to free the Queen from the stigma of a plague ship.  Now the mail contract is ended, and they need to free themselves of a ship which will only become a burden, eating up in fuel and portfee costs any profit they might make by their free trading efforts.  Rael Cofort, Teague Cofort's younger sister, comes to them with an offer and a request.  The offer is from Teague to buy the "Space Wrack", as they had called it; the request is for Rael to be taken on as unskilled labor, until their next port.  Which turns out to be Canuche of the sun Halio.  While there, they make contact with one of the major businessmen of Canuche, who is willing to offer them a shipping contract for his machinery to go to a nearby mining satellite.  Over dinner with him at the top of Canuche's landmark tower, he mentions that some of the ocean-going ships in the harbor below them are loading up on ammonium nitrate.  Rael remembers that the stuff is highly explosive, and reminds McGregory of the fact.  He decides to set up an evacuation drill for his employees, but before he can actually call it, one of the ships loaded with ammonium nitrate catches fire and blows up, devastating the entire port and seriously jeopardizing the Solar Queen's crew, who (of course) pitch in in the rescue work, while Dane and Captain Jellico fight desperately to prevent another ship from blowing up. ~ SL


The adventures of the Solar Queen continue after “Postmarked the Stars”. The Queen has finished their mail run contract and wants to sell their sister ship, the Space Wrack, and get back to trading again. Rael Cofort, half-sister to a wealthy competitor buys the Wrack for her brother. She also wants passage to Canuche of Halio, the Queen's next port where they hope to pick up cargo and maybe a charter. She is a licensed medic and jack of all trades. Competent in all phases of Free Trade, she also possesses heightened senses and is a low-level empath. She also has a reputation of a magnet for trouble. She signs on as a temporary crewman for the Queen. On Canuche, Rael's sense of smell helps uncover a murder for profit ring. After several adventures, the Captain, Cargo Master, Dane, Ali and Rael are having dinner with a wealthy industrialist who wants to ship cargo on the Queen. They learn that Ammonium Nitrate is loaded on ships in the harbor. Rael is the first to remember how dangerous that fertilizer can be. Dane and a few others recall the deadly history of this substance and convince the businessman to test some in his lab. He plans evacuation routes and protocols for his employees in case of emergencies. A few days later, a cargo ship catches fire. A massive evacuation is started and the Queen and other Free Traders move their ships further away from the port. The massive blast levels most of the city, killing thousands. Rael and the Captain wander through the devastation giving first aid and comfort to the victims who could be helped. The crews of the Queen and other free traders rush to help. Then the captain learns that there is another ship carrying even more Ammonium Nitrate in the harbor and it is being threatened by fire on the docks. Can Captain Jellico save the ship and the town from an even greater blast than the first one? The story starts slow but picks up into furious action which thrills and excites. ~ PG


KIRKUS REVIEW ~ Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993
Norton's four-book series about the trader spaceship Solar Queen ended in 1969 with Postmarked the Stars; this long-range continuation utilizes Norton's concepts and was written mostly by Griffin. This time, the Solar Queen (its personnel often recognizable from 1969) takes aboard a female crew member, the half-alien, empathic, multitalented medic Rael Cofort. Though problems crop up almost at once, and some of the men mutter about her being a jinx, Rael soon saves Sinbad, the ship's cat, after he gets torn up in a terrible battle with a giant rat. Later, on planet Canuche, Rael unmasks a nasty conspiracy among local bar owners, who rob and murder unsuspecting patrons and keep rats to dispose of the evidence. Next, Rael demonstrates her impressive trading abilities in earning the ship a fortune in rare textiles and gems. Finally, she warns the local ocean-shipping magnates of a potential disaster involving the handling of chemical cargoes-- and then, sure enough, a shipboard fire triggers a devastating explosion, after which Rael, heedless of her own injuries, shows off her miraculous doctoring skills. Agreeable, well-crafted adventures--the superman slant isn't as tiresome as it sounds in summary--though lacking the salty-dog realism of A. Bertram Chandler's Rim World yarns, and markedly less powerful than C.J. Cherryh's alien-trader Chanur tales.


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

I would especially like to thank Andre Norton for permitting me to work in her Solar Queen universe and for for her comments, suggestions, and encouragement while this book was in progress. Thanks are also due to Jim Frenkel for his work in editing the manuscript.
-P.M. Griffin


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1993) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-85314-9, LCCN 92043708, $19.95, 304pg ~ cover by John Berkey {Black Paper Boards}
  • (1994) Published by TOR, PB, 0-812-51986-8, LCCN 92-43708, $4.99, 304pg ~ cover by Martin Andrews

NOTE: The dust jacket of the hardcover states that John Berkley is the cover artist, and the copyright page of the paper back states that Martin Andrews is the cover artist. However the artwork is the same for both. As for who actually created this cover-art that is still up in the air.


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1993) Combined with "Horn Crown" and "Perilous Dreams" translation by K. Prilpko ~ Published in Moscow, by Sigma Press and Zelenograd, by Zelenogradskaya Books, 5-863-14020-8, HC 448pg ~ "Redline the Stars" translation by D. Arseniev ~ Russian title Королева Солнца 2 [Solor Queen 2]
  • (1998) Combined with "Derelict for Trade" translation by S. Anisimov ~ Published in Moscow, by AST, 5-237-00667-1, HC, 528pg ~ "Redlined the Stars" translation by E. Dobrokhotova-Maykova ~ Russian title Аварийная планета [Derelict for Trade]
  • (2003) Combined with "Derelict for Trade" translation by S. Anisimov and "A Mind for Trade" translation by M. Levin ~ Published in Moscow, by AST, 5-170-16365-7, HC, 720pg ~ "Redline the Stars" translation by E. Dobrokhotova-Maykova ~ Russian title Подчеркнуто звездами. Покинутый корабль. Разум на торги.
  • (2004) Combined with "Sargasso of Space" translation by S. Berezhkova and S. Vitina, "Plague Ship", "Voodoo Planet" and "Postmarked the Stars" translation by A. Malina, "Derelict for Trade" translation by S. Anisimov and "A Mind for Trade" translation by M. Levin ~ Published in Moscow, by AST, 5-170-24014-7, HC, 1132pg ~ "Redline the Stars" translation by E. Dobrokhotova-Maykova ~ Russian title Королева Солнца [Solar Queen]
  • (2004) Combined with "Sargasso of Space" translation by S. Berezhkova and S. Vitina, "Plague Ship", "Voodoo Planet" and "Postmarked the Stars" translation by A. Malina, "Derelict for Trade" translation by S. Anisimov, "A Mind for Trade" translation by M. Levin, and "Plague Planet" by unknown ~ Published in Moscow, by AST, 5-170-24016-3, HC, 1136pg ~ "Redline the Stars" translation by E. Dobrokhotova-Maykova ~ Russian title Королева Солнца [Solar Queen]