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Reviews in Project: 50 Nortons in 50 Weeks (50)

The Fiftieth Norton in Fifty Weeks

Dragon Magic  (Magic, book 4)

By Andre Norton

23 Oct, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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Andre Norton’s 1971 Dragon Magic is apparently the fourth book in Norton’s Magic series. Until now I had never even known the series existed, and certainly had not read any of the books in it. 

The only things that Sig Dortmund, Artie Jones, Kim Stevens, and George Brown (or as he prefers to be called, Ras) all have in common are that they are all American boys and they all take the same school bus. Even that is not by itself enough to bring them together. While Artie and Sig are friends of a sort (Artie would far rather be friends with football hero Greg Ross, but he’s stuck with Sig), disinterest in bridging racial differences keeps them from reaching out to African-American Ras or Chinese-American Kim Stevens.

And then comes the treasure.…


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The Trader and the Witch

Exiles of the Stars  (Moon Singer, book 2)

By Andre Norton

16 Oct, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1971’s Exiles of the Stars is the first sequel to Andre Norton’s Moon of Three Rings. It was followed by 1986’s Flight of Yiktor and 1990’s Dare to Go A‑Hunting, neither of which I will review (because they fall outside the boundaries of this review series1). Exiles picks up where Moon left off, with star-trader Krip Vorlund and alien witch Maelen the Moon Singer ensconced in brand-new bodies — Krip in the body of a Thassa and Maelen in the body of a small animal called a glassia — and on their way to the stars on the Free Trader Lydis.


But they’re not out of trouble yet. From the start, Lydis’ contract on Thoth had a whiff of danger. Nervous theocrats, threatened by religious strife and civil disorder, have hired the Lydis to transport precious artefacts, relics of a lost Forerunner race, to safety. The destination: Ptah, one of the other worlds in the Amen-Re system. 


A temple insider leaks the news that the priests are sending holy artefacts off-world. Even as the precious cargo is loaded aboard Lydis, angry mobs converge on the starship. Only the customary prohibition against attacking Free Traders can defend the Lydis.


They manage to escape from the riot-torn world, but worse is yet to come. Getting to Ptah will prove more challenging than expected.



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In Which a Minor Norton Mystery is Solved

Forerunner Foray  (Warlock, book 3)

By Andre Norton

9 Oct, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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Yes, this book should have been featured in my final Norton review. It’s not, because someone (and I am not naming names here) didn’t read the Waterloo Public Library entries for Dragon Magic and Exiles of the Stars carefully enough. That person overlooked the little McC notation indicating that the books were to be found at the McCormick branch (which is effectively inaccessible to me). It will take long enough to transfer the books to the central branch that waiting means missing the deadline for today’s review. And I prefer not to miss deadlines.

1973’s Forerunner Foray is third in the Forerunner series. It’s also the first one in which the Forerunners play a significant role, three books and thirteen years into the series. 

Ziantha’s promising psychic powers have caught the attention of Yasa and Ogan, two ambitious members of the Thieves Guild, and earned her a ticket out of the Dipple. It’s true that she is more of a valued possession than a valued employee, but even that is better than a life spent in the Dipple. It’s not like Yasa and Ogan don’t take care of her; not only have they honed Ziantha’s psychic powers, but they have trained her as a thief and a master of disguise.

All she has to do is follow orders to the letter, never screw up, and never step out of line and she will be secure until the moment she has outlived her usefulness.

In the opening chapter, Ziantha screws up by exceeding her instructions. She has been told to break into the home of a certain Jucundus. While there, she is strangely attracted to seemingly valueless curio. She cannot forget the curio and while brooding over it, discovers a new psychic power. She teleports the curio to her location. While she gains the curio, she also alerts the Patrol’s mentalists to the fact that there is a powerful unregistered psychic somewhere on Korwar. Oh yes, and she succeeds in alerting her master and mistress that she has stepped out of line.


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Demons Return

Breed to Come

By Andre Norton

2 Oct, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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The People who take center stage in Norton’s 1972 Breed to Come have only a vague idea of who they are or where they came from. Centuries earlier, Demons ruled the world. Then their hubris both doomed the Demons and raised their victims — the feline People, the porcine Tuskers, the ratlike Rattons, and the canine Barkers — from mere animals to people. Or so Furtig of the People has been taught since he was a cub.

As far as Furtig knows, the most serious problem facing him is the need to prove himself to those who choose, the females of breeding age of the tribe. I regret to report that this effort will not go all that well for Furtig, who is brave and smart — but not especially adept at the sort of hand-to-hand contest that is one of the customs of his people.

The good news is, having his head handed to him by a much larger Person isn’t close to worst thing that will happen to Furtig by the end of the book. Not only will his forlorn journey of exploration leave him a prisoner of the foul Rattons, but the Demons are at last returning home.…


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Return of the Psychocrats! 

Android at Arms  (Psychocrat, book 2)

By Andre Norton

25 Sep, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1971’s Android at Arms  brings us ever closer to the end of this review series. It’s not a Norton I encountered as a teen. To my surprise, even without the nostalgia factor, I kinda liked it. It succeeds in being creepy; indeed, it’s one of the creepiest Nortons I’ve read. 

Andas, Prince of Inyanga and likely heir to the emperor, went to sleep in a lavishly appointed bed chamber. He wakes in a stark prison cell, which comes as something of a surprise. 

Andas isn’t alone in the prison. His fellow prisoners come from many worlds, but all have one thing in common: they all are important people, at least on their own planets. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to kidnap powerful (or potentially powerful) people. That someone might be … the Psychocrats. Or the heirs of the Psychocrats. It’s impossible to tell, as the villains rule through their machines. 

On the basis of surprisingly little evidence, the prisoners convince themselves the mass kidnapping is only half of the scheme. The villains must have built android doubles for the prisoners, then swapped those doubles for the originals. Using the strategically placed androids, androids conditioned to obey their creators, the villains can control the galaxy. Bwahahaha! 

The prisoners have been suspended in stasis. They wake up when the prison’s stasis machines break down; they escape the prison because the locks have failed as well. They manage to get off-planet, thanks to the automated spaceport nearby (a spaceport like the one in Galactic Derelict ). Home again? Not so simple. 


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Legacy of the Psychocrats

Ice Crown  (Psychocrat, book 1)

By Andre Norton

18 Sep, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1970’s Ice Crown is one of Norton’s standalones, though it shares one background element with many other novels: the forerunners, the long vanished alien civilization whose fall foreshadows humanity’s fate. Oddly enough, what came to mind when I read this novel wasn’t other Norton books (like Forerunner Foray or the Warlock books), but a very well known television series of the 1960s.

Clio is a closed world, protected from all contact with the surrounding galactic civilization (a civilization of which it is utterly unaware). Or almost all contact; Offlas, his son Sandor, and Offlas’ niece Roane are allowed to visit Clio for research purposes, to search for rumoured Forerunner relics. Not that either Offlas or Sandor see much value in Roane’s potential contributions to the mission.

Access to Clio is a rare privilege, but one with a price: there is to be absolutely no contact between the scientists and the locals. An offending off-worlder pays a steep price for violation of the rule: essentially an end to their career. For the unfortunate local who encounters an off-worlder, the cost is much higher: they are to be memory wiped. This is intended to preserve the great secret: Clio is just one world among many. 

Any guesses as to how long it takes for Roane to break that cardinal rule?


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And now for a collection

High Sorcery

By Andre Norton

11 Sep, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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I was surprised when I first encountered a short work by Norton; I had never thought of her as someone who worked in short lengths. In fact, she wrote dozens of short pieces. If ISFDB’s list of her short works looks comparatively small next to a list of her novels, that only reflects how many novels Norton wrote. Her output may not have been quite Asimovian but it was certainly Andersonian.

Which brings us to Norton’s 1970 collection, High Sorcery.

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Always Read the Fine Print

Dread Companion

By Andre Norton

4 Sep, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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In Andre Norton’s 1970 standalone novel Dread Companion, Kilda c’Rhyn’s great tragedy is 

Unfortunately, I inherited my mother’s sex but my father’s spirit and interests. I would have been supremely happy as a scout, a seeker-out of far places and strange sights. My favored reading among the tapes were the accounts of exploration, trading on primitive planets, and the like. Perhaps I might have fitted in with the free traders. But among them women are so few and those so guarded and cherished that I might have been even more straitly prisoned on one of their spaceports, seeing my mate only at long intervals, bound by their law to remarry again if his ship was reported missing for more than a stated time. 

It may be so far in the future the location of Earth is but a rumour but sexism is alive and well.

Abandoned by her spacer father, crèche-educated and unsuited to life in her mother’s clan, Kilda is desperate to escape Chalox, the world of her birth, before she is consigned to those roles deemed appropriate for women. When Gentlefem Guska Zobak offers to hire Kilda as her house aide on the distant world Dylan, Kilda doesn’t look too closely at the details.

She should have.

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Return to Janus 

Victory on Janus  (Janus, book 2)

By Andre Norton

28 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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1965's The Year of the Unicorn takes us back to the Witch World, across the ocean to High Hallack

Andre Norton’s 19661 Victory on Janus returns to the bleak world of 1963’s Judgment on Janus . Victory isn’t as grim a book as Judgment, but it is still nothing like upbeat. 

The Ift, reborn in commandeered and transformed human bodies after millennia of extinction, are still a mere handful. Lacking numbers, their survival is due only to the fact the human colonists on Janus are largely unaware of and consequently indifferent to the alien revenants. 

Or rather, were. Now the colonists are burning the vast forests around their settlements. If the Ift cannot find out why the humans are doing this, and convince them to stop, then it is only a matter of time before the Ift are cast back into unending darkness. 

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Whatever Happened to the Solar Queen?

Postmarked the Stars  (Solar Queen, book 4)

By Andre Norton

21 Aug, 2015

50 Nortons in 50 Weeks

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Although a decade passed for Norton’s fans between the third Solar Queen novel (1959’s Voodoo Planet) and the fourth (1969’s Postmarked the Stars), for protagonist Dane Thorson, the events of this book Postmarked the Stars, follow right on the heels of the earlier three. 

Dane’s appointment as temporary cargo chief on the Solar Queen, replacing a superior on holiday, seems like it should be a good thing. All it does is paint a great big target on poor Dane. Ne’er do wells are plotting to use the ship for nefarious purposes. This becomes obvious when Dane, having set out to pick up a parcel for transport, wakes up from a drugged stupor in an unfamiliar room. When he staggers back to the Solar Queen, he finds that he has been replaced by a look-alike. 

Temporarily. The look-alike in fact was in such terrible health he had no business trying to travel; he dies of an unexpected heart condition even before Dane gets back to the Solar Queen. There’s no way to ask him what he was up to. But that’s OK; the results of the doppleganger’s shenanigans are revealed in short order. 

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