The First SF Book I Ever Read

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It was 1973. I checked out a book from my junior high school library because it had an interesting cover and took it home to get sucked into a story about a female character who had some kind of adventure taking a ride in the past in someone else’s memories. I’ve always remembered that there was some kind of headpiece or tiara involved, with two green stones imbued with some sort of psychometric powers, one stone of which was missing. Time was, perhaps, an issue. At the end of the story, the main character has recovered the second green stone, and she needs it to… do something important. I think.

I went on to check out and read every single science fiction book in that library (not a huge number, but the Heinlein juveniles were among them, I remember that distinctly). At some point, I finagled my parents into letting me join the Science Fiction Book Club, and I spent the rest of the 70’s reading the likes of Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Silverberg, et al.

Along with the romance novels my mother thought she’d hidden all over the house, of course.

In those early years, I devoured books the way a teenager devours food, indiscriminately and in large quantities. Being bad with names to begin with, I failed to take note of titles and authors. But the stories stuck out in my mind. And while those memories eventually degraded as well, I’ve spent the last 40 years trying to remember what the heck The Book, the first SF book I ever read, was. It was a juvenile of some sort, definitely. I didn’t think it was Heinlein — the memory didn’t have that feel. Andre Norton, perhaps, but I’ve never been sure.

Recently, my husband found a book he’d been trying to remember, and I stepped up my game, actively seeking out The Book. Googling plot elements didn’t work. I began to focus on Andre Norton’s works, hoping that my vague feeling was correct. I found 14 Norton books free on Kindle and downloaded them–it wasn’t any of those. I was stumped. I asked around if anyone remembered an Andre Norton novel involving, perhaps, a female protagonist who experiences someone else’s life through a headpiece with two green stones. No luck.

Yesterday, I was sitting in the green room at Philcon, between panels, chatting with a couple of people, when my husband walked in and plopped a book in my lap. I recognized the cover instantly.

It was The Book.

On a table just outside the dealers room, near the door where Filthy Pierre’s rack of con brochures was set up, my husband saw a stack of “somebody please give me a home” books which included titles by Andre Norton. Mindful of my search, he began to read the dust jackets, and that one mentioned a missing stone, being transported into other identities, and a race against time. He snagged it. And brought it to me.

And I am now the ecstatic owner of the very first SF novel I ever read.

My husband is amazing.

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