" The things that make us happy make us wise" John Crowley, Little Big

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Star Man's Son 2250 A.D.



Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton, Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc 1952, illustrated by Nicolas Mordvinoff. When I got serious about collecting Norton I knew I had to get a copy of this edition as this Star Man’s Son with it’s bright red cover was the first Norton book I remembered reading. While most of the library hardcovers I read then had great dust jackets by Finlay or Powers, the Mordvinoff copy had great interior illustrations as well. My copy is ex-library copy from the Miami Dade Public Library, not that it matters but I like knowing the history, and it is in nice shape. This is Norton’s first science fiction title. She notes in an Algol Profile by Gary Allan Ruse, “ As I stated producing more, it was at the same time that science fiction became saleable” she says, “So from then on I went into science fiction. Before that I had written spy stories, and adventure stories and historical novels. Things of that kind. You see, you couldn’t sell a science fiction book prior to 1951.” The publication of science fiction novels really took off in the 1950’s, before that science fiction appeared primarily in the pulp magazines and even longer works were serialized in several issues of a magazine. Despite an appearance of her story People of the Crater, as by Andrew North in Fantasy Book Vol.1 No.1 1947, Norton, unlike most of the science fiction writers of her generation really did not publish much short fiction. 


It is two hundred years after the Blow-up, the Atomic War which has decimated the world and Fors of the Eyrie has been passed over for admittance to the Star Hall. The Star Men are explorers who search the wilderness for forgotten knowledge and goods for the Eyrie. Fors has several strikes against him, his mother was a outsider, a member of the plains tribes and Fors had been brought to the Eyrie as a child, by his father Langdon. Langdon a Star Man himself was killed on his last trip and so cannot speak for him. And most importantly Fors has enhanced hearing and sight and his white hair clearly marks him as a mutant. So that night Fors pillages the Star Hall for his father’s bag which contains a map to a pre-blowup city and sets out into the wilderness with Luna his great hunting cat, a beast the size of a mountain lion but marked like a Siamese. Dogs have died out and been replaced by these larger versions of domestic cats who have the ability for limited unspoken communication with some people and they are the companions of the Star Men. Now for Fors his adventures begin, he moves across a devastated and largely unpopulated landscape that is returning to the wild. He encounters more and more remnants of the pre-blowup civilization and obtains a horse that has strayed from the plains tribes. Eventually he finds the city pictured on his father’s map. Once in the city Fors rescues a black youth Arskane from a Beast Thing trap. Arsine is a scout for a clan of black sheep herders who are migrating into the area. Together they have encounters with both the Beast Things and the plains tribes and things get really exciting as they realize they are caught up in a much larger conflict.





Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. is an enjoyable read, it was originally marketed as a Young Adult novel but the later Ace publication made no mention of this and the book seems to have sold well. Donald A.Wollheim the head of ACE Books at the time notes in his book The Universe Makers, 1971 p.60 “I was thinking the other day of ACE Books’ most unsuspected best seller, a novel I reprinted and whose title I changed to Daybreak, 2250 A.D.. it was written by Andre Norton as a juvenile novel, and it was her first science-fiction book-length work. She called it Star Man’s Son…, It has sold continuously and rapidly for fifteen years, in printing after printing, with steady price rises to meet the rising costs of production, has broken the record for any book ever published by what has become a major paperback publisher and continues to sell with unabated interest. Well over a million copies would be my conservative estimate of its total sale to date. There is nothing in our ACE edition to indicate it is supposed to be a juvenile novel. " Wollheim also discusses how readers of Norton’s novel, as well as other science fiction novels of the time took for granted that an atomic war could happen, and the result could well be a devastated world inhabited by mutated survivors. 



But this does not seem to have been an important consideration for Norton when she wrote the novel. Paul Walker interviewed Norton for his book Speaking of Science Fiction and raised this point.

PW “ Of you books, my favourite is Starman’s Son. I wonder if it reflected your own anxieties about the Bomb?”

AN “ No, I was not thinking of the Bomb, except as a means of the plot beginning. What had always fascinated me was trying to imagine my home city of Cleveland as it might be as a deserted ruin. Cleveland, then is the city of that book-only distances in it have been telescoped.”



Star Man’s Son 2250 A.D. is a great introduction to Norton’s work since many of the plot elements will appear again and again in her work. The protagonists are often young orphans or outcasts. Robert D. Lofland conducted a long interview with Norton in her home for his MA Thesis,  Andre Norton, A Contemporary Author of Books for Young People, 1960. In speaking about Norton he notes “ she feels the hero must be an orphan in order that his parents cannot interfere with his actions." Norton will often introduce minority characters, examples include Fanyi of No Night Without Stars, Hosteen Storm of Beastmaster, and Travis Fox of Galactic Derelict.  In the same thesis Lofland states “ she does feel strongly about racial prejudice and does not feel it should exist.” One of the most obvious threads running through her novels is some level of communication between humans and animals which can be found in many other novels including, Catseye, Beastmaster, Storm over Warlock, Moon of Three Rings, and No Night Without Stars

So why did I like this novel so much?  Fors has a sword, a bow and a giant cat, for a pet crazed kid with hamsters, wow. As enemies the Beast Things are pretty scary and clear cut. Like almost all protagonists in YA literature Fors is unappreciated (weren’t we all at that age ) but wins his place in the world in the end. While Norton states The Bomb did not influence her thinking in this work, but as a child who was taught to crawl under his deck in a Windsor public school in case the big ones launched from Cuba, it certainly influenced my reading and my thinking. Norton books were common in both my school library and the public library across the street and I loved authors with a big back list, knowing there were many more books by them to enjoy had great appeal. Often I would read one book, be it a historical novel, mystery etc and then seek out and read all the other books by that author without embracing the entire genre.


So Star Man's Son was just the beginning, Andre would take me out of my own life, across the galaxy, into our future and our past, with aliens, animals and adventures galore. Thanks Andre!


All articles/books quoted here except the Walker and the Wollheim titles can be found at

http://www.andre-norton-books.com







4 comments:

  1. I just stumbled across this blog. I found this book (same edition) in my local public library around 1970-1975 (during my early teens or pre-teens) and it made a deep and lasting impression on me. Not just the great prose by Norton, but also the accompanying primitive and nightmarish illustrations by Nicolas Mordvinoff. A great adventure, and sometimes terrifying.

    I believe this is the only novel of Norton's that I ever read. I always meant to read more, but somehow never got around to it. I really should fix that.

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    1. Hi Stevo

      I was really happy to read your comments. This is a great edition of this novel, the illustrations by Mordvinoff really added to the story for me. It is too bad they did not do interior illustrations for more of Norton's books.

      Regards
      Guy

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  2. I just saw this review through SF Mistressworks, and replied through that Wordpress group, but would like to contribute here. I, too, read this book about 40 years ago, mainly due to the Siamese cat-like creature on the cover. I enjoyed it then, and recently enjoyed it again with a reread.

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  3. Hi

    Thanks for taking the trouble to post your comment here as well. As you can tell I really loved this book, and Andre Norton in general and so I am really glad you hear that you enjoyed the book as well. I think it is always nice when we can reread a book we read as a child and still enjoy it. Hopefully it brings back some pleasant memories.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Guy

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