Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Discuss: Andre Norton

Karen: Since we had  some interest expressed in discussing some science fiction and fantasy books and authors after the Tripods post, let's start with an author that has already been mentioned: Andre Norton. She's well-loved for her many juvenile novels. While I haven't read her extensively -I never got to the Witch World books for example -I did really enjoy her Time Trader series, and other books like Star Man's Son. Please share any thoughts you have on this prolific author.



Humanbelly said...

Wow, Karen, I am so ridiculously time-crunched at the moment. . . and then ya blindside us w/ a topic I can't POSSIBLY pass up-! Oh, you are a harsh dungeon-master, indeed!

Yep, she was probably my favorite author even well into high school, although her pre-1972(ish) body of work-- largely very traditional "hard" adventure/science fiction-- is by far what I preferred. TIME TRADERS and STAR MAN'S SON (re-titled DAYBREAK: 2250 A.D.-- man, I think you're the only person I know who's referred to it by its original title!)were both from that period. DB2250, in fact, was her first full SF novel, I believe, and is truly her masterpiece of that time. I probably read it 4 times. HBSon has read it two or three as well. She was an EXTREMELEY formulaic writer, and this novel set that formula right up. And while I wouldn't say she was exactly a brilliant wordsmith, and that there was an astonishing (perhaps disturbing?)lack of interpersonal romance in her work, she had an incredible knack for getting you right into the heads and skins of her protaganists-- of being able to follow the course of the story through their eyes. And, brother, she could drive and sustain things like chase-scenes just about as well as any author I can think of! And she was never shy about relying on that knack. A particular book, STAR GATE, I remember almost nothing about-- rather mundane-- except that about the last quarter of the story has you practically tearing at the pages in an effort to turn them more quickly, as you become an unwitting slave to the tempo she sets.

But many, many great titles for young-ish readers: DB2250; THE BEASTMASTER; THE LAST PLANET; HERE ABIDE MONSTERS (although the end is unsettling); DREAD COMPANION; ANDROID AT ARMS; CATSEYE; STORM OVER WARLOCK-- and several "series" where she returns to some favored characters.

Nowadays, she's FAR more well-known and revered for her work in the Fantasy genre. I think WITCH WORLD was where that largely began, although some of her earlier works took some steps in that direction. At the risk of raising the ire of this period's legion of fans, I could never get myself to surrender to her fantasy work, even though it was far, far more successful and mainstream and lucrative, I'm sure. And I did read the first three Witch World books-- which I believe still thrives as a series in the hands of some of her coleagues. Just a little too. . . squishy(?). . . for my tastes. But that's largely just my own tastes, as Tad Williams' & Jim Butcher's straight fantasy works don't pull me in, either.

BEASTMASTER was the first book of hers I read. Y'know why? Because in the Young Readers section at our town library, "he" (Andre Norton? Right?) was right next to Mary Norton, who wrote The Borrowers books that I was so fond of at the time (maybe 3rd grade?). Those titles kept doing their job (SEA SIEGE, STAR GUARD, BEASTMASTER, CATSEYE, GALACTIC DERELICT, THE LAST PLANET) of catching my eye and my imagination, and I finally picked one up. I was an extremely good reader, but man, a book w/out occassional illustrations? This was big-kid stuff! I distinctly remember that feeling of taking the next step up, and how incredibly rewarding it was enjoy this book just as much as The Three Investigators, or The Borrowers, or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe even though there weren't pictures to help w/ the visualization.

And now, I MUST get back to work!


humanbelly said...

Ah, and one last aside--
I may very well be the only respondant for this post, Karen, but it is much, much appreciated by this Legion of One, believe me.

Many thanks!


Edo Bosnar said...

Great post, HB, and don't worry, you won't be the only one. Count me among those who really like Andre Norton, and who like her for her SF novels (although in my case, it's simply because I haven't (yet?) read her Witch World or other fantasy material). The thing is, I came to know her work kind of backwards: I only started reading some of her books well into adulthood, in fact, I was almost middle-aged. I know most of her earlier SF material was considered juvenile fiction, but man, could she write enjoyable, fast-paced stories! Her work compares well to - and in fact I like it better than - Robert Heinlein's early, more juvenile-oriented SF books.
And yes, I love Star Man's Son - and I indeed have a nice old used copy with precisely that title - it's just a great adventure tale. Also loved Star Guard a great deal - I like how it's based on Xenophon's account of the March of the Ten Thousand, which was later, perhaps more famously used by the guy who wrote The Warriors (on which the even more famous movie is based).
Other favorites of mine: Sioux Spaceman, despite its terrible title, and the Star Stones books (Zero Stone and Uncharted Stars).
In conclusion, I think Norton's books are not only perfect for children/young adults, but also perfect for adults looking for light, entertaining reading that doesn't insult your intelligence.

Karen said...

Thanks you two for jumping in on this post. Hopefully we'll see some more comments.

Although I didn't read a ton of Norton, I did notice certain themes repeated. She seemed really interested in Native Americans and their cultures, for one thing.

And Edo -funny you should mention Heinlein -he'll show up before this month is over!

Dougie said...

When our old school was scheduled for demolition and just prior to the move to the new building, I rescued a 1974 copy of Catseye- identical to the one I had read in my primary school library. I thought it, The Zero Stone and Android at Arms- were the most mindblowing stuff when I was 11 or 12.

Last week I just bought my second copy of Trey of Swords, which I first bought in Amsterdam in 1979. When I've finished it, I'll post agian.

Edo Bosnar said...

Karen, it's good to know that note I dropped in the suggestion box recently did not fall on deaf ears! And Heinlein should generate a pretty interesting discussion, as I'm sure quite a few of the regulars here have stumbled onto his writings at some point.

Karen said...

Edo, between your suggestion and the response to the Tripods post, it seemed like a good idea to start a series of posts based on books. We already cover comics, music, films, and TV, and I know books were a huge part of my childhood, and I suspect of most of yours too, so why not discuss them? Heck, we've talked about weather and candy, is there anything we won't discuss?!

Rip Jagger said...

Andre Norton is a favorite despite the fact I've read few of her books. Like most folks, I thought she was a he for many years.

But my lack of insight did not stop me from adoring The Time Traders stories. My personal fave is Key Out of Time, it was a book which in many ways opened the sci-fi doors for me. I checked it out a few times from my local library and didn't run across the rest of them for some time.

Just thinking about it makes me want to read it again.

Rip Off

humanbelly said...

It's funny, Rip-- this conversation is having the exact same effect on me. I've given about a third of my accumulation ("collection" might be too optimistic a phrase) to my 11-year-old nephew-- but I still have quite a few down there.

I also have a very severely disabled 14-year-old nephew who gets read to a lot, and I happened to suggest Andre Norton to his father, as they were running low on inspired reading material. Although it's quite difficult to communicate with him, their sense was that he enjoyed the book (don't know which one) quite a lot, and are looking for more of her titles.

Hey, before she settled into SF? She wrote westerns! And she was a librarian (I believe) for many, many years before she became a full-time writer. Also had a failed used-book store not too far from here in, like, the 50's or 60's.


Rip Jagger said...

I was so eager to read them this afternoon, I searched at work and found them available at Project Gutenberg, or at least three of them. My productivity at work will be somewhat diminished I fear for the next few days.

Here are the links:

The Time Traders


The Defiant Agents


Key Out of Time


Rip Off

Karen said...

You know something else I appreciate about not only Norton's juvenile sci fi/fantasy but most sci fi/fantasy of the 50s/60s -it was all typically under 200 pages! It didn't require a major time commitment. So many novels today are 400, 500 pages long. I like the idea of a nice, slender, complete story I can read in a short period of time (considering the bulk of my reading is done during my half hour at lunch and perhaps a half hour before bed).

Related Posts with Thumbnails