Third in the Solar Queen series, “Voodoo Planet” sees the crew of the space freighter back at square one after having been cheated out of their trading grounds in Plague Ship. Deregulated and facing the prospect of performing lowly mail runs to rebuild their place in the merchant fleet, when a rare opportunity presents itself on the planet Khatka, Captain Jellico, Dane Thorsen, Tau and the others are only too eager to accept. Khatka colonized by people from Africa, the inhabitants are said to possess a kind of magic impervious to science and technology, and while out on a hunting safari the crew of the Solar Queen meet first-hand the wizard Lumbrilo. But with wild creatures attacking from all sides and psychedelics whirling in the dense jungle, they begin to wish they’d stuck to mail.
“Voodoo Planet” is perfunctory planetary adventure. Norton inverts the race hierarchy of Africa by having blacks rule Khatka, whites on the bottom rung, but nothing is done with the idea. The focus suspense and adventure, the crew of the Solar Queen find themselves perpetually fleeing for survival. If it isn’t the chemicals in the water, then it’s the animals attacking in the night, and if poachers don’t want them out of their hunting ground, then their old rivals are working behind the scenes to see they are finished once and for all.
The overall novella possessing an episodic feel, the reader knows the Solar Queen will survive no matter the trouble they get into. Draining some of the suspense, the voodoo of “Voodoo Planet” sends a chill, but it’s not ice cold. Though published in 1959, the story is a clear-cut result of a Golden Age approach to science fiction. Easily readable, easily enjoyable for the splash of color and imagery, it’s also easily forgettable.