"Secret of the Lost Race" was first published in 1959 and is one of the few 'straight' science fiction novels of Lifetime Grand Master of Fantasy, Andre Norton, who passed away on March 17, 2005 after a long and extremely fruitful career. Her first novel, "The Prince Commands" was published in 1934, and her last, "Three Hands for Scorpio" in 2005. Her magically detailed world-building skills and upright, against-all-odds characters will be sorely missed.
("Return to Quag Keep," a sequel to Norton's "Quag Keep" (1979), will be released as a collaboration in January, 2006.)
"Secret of the Lost Race" is a solid adventure story about a mysterious young man named Joktar, who is a dealer in a gambling house in the Port of N'Yok. He looks much younger than he really is, and the customers mistake him for an easy mark. Nothing could be further from the truth. Joktar was orphaned early and forced to live on the street. He is tough, intelligent, and wary, but Joktar is still swept up in a night-time dragnet meant to find 'volunteers' for forced labor on newly discovered worlds.
Matters only go from bad to worse. Before he can be shipped off-planet, Joktar is accused of murder by a man in the gray uniform of the Intergalactic Scouts. His accuser attempts to beat the truth out of him, then has him shipped out to the worst destination in the galaxy: the planet, Fenris in the Constellation of the Wolf.
Once on the icy world of Fenris, Joktar is auctioned off to a mining conglomerate but before he reaches his final destination in the alibite mine, he escapes.
Okay Norton fans, we're on a strange planet but in otherwise familiar territory: a young outcast pitted against an alien wilderness, hunted by mysterious, unsavory characters. This author keeps us turning the pages, not only for the cliff-hangers that Joktar gets himself into, but also for tantalizing clues into the young man's identity. Why is he being hunted by the powerful men in gray? Why do they consider him a threat to all of humanity?
This is another fantastically populated universe, created by one of the most underrated fantasy/science fiction writers of our time. "Secret of the Lost Race" is not one of Norton's best sf adventure novels--that honor should be given to her Beast Master/Lord of Thunder series--but serious fans won't want to miss it.