I was looking over the Wikipedia list of time travel stories and realized one I had read in the early 1980s was not listed.

It was a short novel, perhaps 100 to 150 pages in paperback. I recall it being a well-known author of the 1970s, on par with (for instance) Pohl (but not him, I checked). The cover I recall clearly, it showed a teardrop-shaped spacecraft with an eye-like porthole floating just above a desert-like ground, and the atmosphere (and thus most of the background) was a sick yellow color like the air was poisoned.

The plot involves the protagonist coming across a time-travel system being experimented with by a group of scientists. Using the device, they discover an alien spacecraft that had been abandoned there millennia ago. I believe they go into the past to retrieve it, as opposed to digging it up in the present. Adventures follow, including traveling to another planet where the equally-dead race's automated spaceport attacks them by heat and they escape just in time. Then they fly home, return to the present, the end.

If that sounds a bit dumb, even at that age I wasn't terribly impressed with the story. But I do seem to recall it being someone well known... hmmm, well-known author but dumb plot... now I'm thinking Piers Anthony. Nope, not him either.

2 Answers 2


That is almost certainly Andre Norton's Galactic Derelict which matches your description point for point.

Here is probably the cover you remember:

yellowish cover

Here's an image search with a whole set of covers. And here's the Wikipedia page on the book.

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    Norton! Yes, that guy. Thank you! And those shutters over the portals, now I see they look like eyelids and fooled my memory. I also recall the spaceship "looking" to the left, not right, but this is definitely the version I read. Should I mark the subject answered or somesuch? Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:41
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    (Actually, FWIW, she was a 'she' -- one of the top two or three YA SF writers of the 50s and the 60s who got a lot of kids from that era into reading SF.)
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:42
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    And so I should read more about Norton... and it was YA so there's that. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:45
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    You'd probably enjoy it! I do recommend that you be careful about when a book was written, as her stories changed markedly over the fifty or so years she was writing, from YA SF in the beginning to more adult fantasy towards the end. Also, many people -- me included -- think that for most of her series, the earlier books tend to be the better.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 22:55

Something in your description is reminiscent of a story by Gregory Kern (a pseudonym of E.C. Tubb), titled Galaxy of the Lost, published in 1973: this short novel includes an automated spaceport of a dead race that has been abandoned but no time travel that I remember, just (perhaps) another dimension.

The cover of a later edition also might fit your memories to some extent:

Front cover of an edition of *Galaxy of the Lost*

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    Worthy try, and yes indeed some parallels on the cover, but not this. No "hero" character really, the protagonist in my story was just "some guy" that happens upon the events. The yellow is roughly correct (less green though), but the spaceship was that 70's rounded style like the DeFate cover of Gateway. Commented Jan 16, 2020 at 21:40

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