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I read this novel in the early 1960s, I think. I was perhaps not even in my teens. I got it from the public library.

There is a solar-system-wide planetary civilization, but it is limited to that. The only detail I remember clearly is that law enforcement uses "tangle webs" to subdue criminals or people who are wanted. This is a device that is thrown at the perpetrator or wanted person that expands into a net that enfolds him and renders him harmless.

I cannot remember the name of the author. I had the idea that it was Fritz Leiber or Keith Laumer but I can't find anything that sounds like it by googling them.

The title might be "Steps to the Stars" or something like that but it is definitely not the book by Daniel Fry. It ends on a high note, that humanity will now be able to go beyond the solar system and visit other stars. I can't remember how that happened.

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    I've seen a few works with "tangle webs", but I'm blanking on particular names... only thing I remember was someone getting hit by one and self-narrating that the trick with them was to not struggle because the web would tighten, keeping you from being able to get to a weapon or tool to extricate yourself.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 1:08
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    Tangle webs appeared in a few Andre Norton stories, and of course "Tangle hold" by Wallace. The difficult thing is connecting them to "humanity will now be able to go beyond the solar system" Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 1:12
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    "tanglefoot fields" are in Heinlein's The Star Beast and there's a "radar hobble-field" in Bester's The Stars My Destination Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 1:53
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    @OrganicMarble "Tanglefoot" was also mentioned in "Friday", and that might be where the "don't struggle" admonition was from. Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 20:02
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    Check out this meta post, as well as the one it links to, on why story Id questions are closed as dupes of each other. It’s not a bad thing, just meant to link information on the same stories together.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jan 1, 2021 at 19:40

2 Answers 2

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Raiders from the Rings by Alan E. Nourse. It was published in 1962.

Raiders from the Rings

Two large men rushed Ben with angry shouts; he waited coolly until they were close enough, then triggered the tangle-gun, aiming at their feet. The egg-shaped gray pellet smashed on the floor beneath them, sending up twisting black tendrils of tangle web that stopped them as though they had been poleaxed. Both tumbled to the floor, struggling against the powerful adhesive of the tangle web, bound tighter and tighter as its molecular structure tightened the more they fought to extricate themselves. Nobody ever died from an encounter with a tangle web, but anybody caught in one would be held for hours in its tenacious tendrils, able to breath but not much more, until the molecular activation gradually seeped away and allowed the victim to release himself.

The book describes a Solar System wide war between Earth and the Spacers who have spread out over the rest of the Solar System.

It ends in an epilogue that predicts a future where humanity will spread out to the stars:

They stood on the wide upper concourse above the vast residential city where the Barrons’ quarters were located. Over their heads the sky was dark, and a night wind filtered across the city. Tom walked to the guard railing, staring at the sky. “It looks different here,” he said. “With the sky-glow and the thick atmosphere, you’d never dream the number of stars that are out there.”

“They’re there, all right,” Ben agreed.

“And some day fleets of ships will be going out. That will be where the real work begins, when the Searchers come back.”

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  • That is it! The paragraph from the book where Ben tangles the two guys up corresponds very well with my memory. Thank you!
    – Wastrel
    Commented Dec 31, 2020 at 18:20
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Possibly "Pegasus in Space"? The end of the book is that interplanetary travel has just become possible, using the "Talents", people with strong psychic abilities including telekenesis. Towards the very end of the book, when they have just demonstrated the ability for the first time, someone says, "Yes! The stars are ours."

I don't know if it appears in this book, but tangle webs or tangle thread, used by law enforcement, appear in other parts of the series, in "Pegasus in Flight" and possibly in "Apple", a short story about a wild (unidentified and untrained) Talent who shoplifts; it appears in "To Ride Pegasus".

Looking at "Pegasus in Flight", the tangling strands probably to not appear in the earlier, "To Ride Pegasus", they are a recent invention of law enforcement. They are sticky strands, called "strands" or "restraint filaments". They do not exactly fit the "web" description in the question. They can also use small, altered, 'strands', stuck in the hair, to 'tag' and trace children (suggested when there is a rash of kidnappings), if this sounds familiar to you.

If the name, Peter Reidinger, rings a bell, he is the strong Talent who works on transferring objects in space.

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