Star Born is actually the second book (thank you, gigantic library rummage sale) in what Wiki assures me is called the Pax-Astra duology, beginning with the wonderfully-named The Stars Are Ours. (Classic SF titles are just so damn awesome, aren’t they? Orion Shall Rise. The Stars Are Ours. No Night Without Stars. The Long Tomorrow. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Dune. Lord of Light. This Moment of the Storm. Soldier, Ask Not. The Many Worlds of Magnus Ridolph. Servants of the Wankh*. The Demon Princes. The Four Lords of the Diamond. They just do not write books like that any more. And even when they try–and the stalwart little PulpRevvers are trying, bless their little paws and tails–it’s a case of Soda Pop Soldier versus Starship Troopers. There’s no gravitas, there’s no grandeur. Anyhow. Take note: an imagination-catching title is worth a bird or two in the hand.) * Uh….well, okay, your mileage may vary a little.
So: Star Born starts off on the right foot. And it keeps going from there. Disclaimer: I quite liked this book and may express personal opinions in the course of this review. I never used to be an Andre Norton fan–partly because the elder members of the family used to monopolize her books, but also partly because aspects of her writing style turned me off–hard. Norton is capable, at times, of writing vaguely nightmarish, fever-dreamy prose which a younger Riders found intensely disturbing to read. Nowadays, of course, I merely skip those chapters; but before that was a possibility, I gave the Grande Dame of Science Fiction a wide berth. The more fool me. Andre Norton writes really good books, whether you want to settle down with a relaxing boy’s own adventure, with heroics, princes, Werewolves, propaganda, aeroplanes, and cavalry charges–or rev up with tales of the Age of Men that never was, when the fire of our jets and the rattle of our protractors and the blaze of our blasters made the stars ours.
Or something like that.
Plot: Dalgard is one of our two main protagonists, a fourth or fifth-generation colonist on the planet Astra, now embarked on his manhood journey, travelling into unknown territory to bring back data for the Elders. A youth on this journey goes alone, or with only his knife brother–such as Sssuri, Dalgar’s merman best friend and, frankly, the brains of the operation. They have decided to explore semi-forbidden territory: a destroyed city built by Those Others (a hateful hiss is appropriate), the alien once-masters of the Astra, and the once-slavemasters of the mermen. The merfolk are free now, and have driven Those Others off the entire continent, but still, the dangerous remnants of their (hissssss) places and technology remains. This city was once the center of Those Others‘ indescribably advanced and also indescribably alien–but very describably evil–knowledge. It’s supposed to also be long-abandoned, destroyed by the cataclysmic fire of some unknown weaponry.
Dalgard and Sssuri find, however, that it isn’t. Some of them have visited it and are attempting to recover and remove technology and/or materials from the demolished city.
Meanwhile, a shipload of Terran astronauts has arrived, delicately poised as only Terrans can be, to put their grav-boots right in it.
Rated: Yeah, so, anyhoo, good book, you should read it.