the Little Red Reviewer

Catching up with Classics: Star Born by Andre Norton

Posted on: October 1, 2011

Star Born, by Andre Norton

published in 1957

Where I got it: Borrowed from a friend

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As with a lot of classic science fiction, I often worry that the story will feel dated. And then I remember why I love science fiction and fantasy: the best of it could be written at anytime, for anyone. Star Born is the first Norton I’ve read, and trust me, it won’t be the last. There is a reason this woman is so famous.

An unknown number of generations in the future, “outlaw” groups fled Earth looking for a new home.  One of these groups landed on a planet called Astra, befriended the local seal-ish/ amphibian natives, and began a small colony. As generations went by in the Terran colony, each subsequent generation was born more in tune with Astra.  Through training and genetic mutation, the Terrans slowly learned from their native friends known as The People how to telepathically communicate with the lower life forms on the planet, such as birds and small mammals.

Dalgard, a Terran colony member, and his knife-brother Sssuri are journeying away from civilization. Dalgard is on his journey of manhood and hopes to expand the borders of the maps of the elders, and Sssuri accompanies him as friend and guide.  To Sssuri’s dismay, they are headed towards the ruins of a city that was once populated by a race that had enslaved Sssuri’s people and then nearly destroyed Astra through what is implied to be nuclear holocaust.

Suffice to say, this book doesn’t feel dated.   Although in one sense it does, as they just don’t write ‘em like this anymore.


Meanwhile, the horrific governments on Terra have come and gone. The Pax is no longer and there is no need for outlaws to run. Humanity styles itself as kindler and gentler, and has a safer space program to explore the galaxy.  Where should the  science expedition land, but Astra?  The Terran expedition lands and are soon greeted by a race of slender creatures, who welcome them and offer to share technologies.

Norton keeps the high-tech alien race of Astra mysterious, and I liked that.  We have no idea what their intentions are, we don’t know if their technologies are helpful or harmful, or if they had some kind of nuclear disaster or if it was something else entirely. Perhaps they do see the Terrans as possible scientific partners. Or maybe they are seeing a new group to genetically modify and enslave, as they once did to Sssuri’s people.  They mystery element is subtle and highly enjoyable.

It’s not long before Dalgard and Sssuri end up in the ruins at the same time as the Terran expedition.  Now Dalgard has a choice to make.  Help the Terrans escape the aliens and return to their shape, in the process making contact and bringing his colony into up to speed with people of their own kind, or avoid contact and allow the humans living on Astra to develop at the pace their surroundings allow for.

This is the kind of young adult book I wish had been on the junior high school reading lists when I was a kid.  Dealing with issues young people should be exposed to – freedom, slavery, self sufficiency, contact with people less advanced, and that high tech civilizations aren’t automatically better than lower tech civilizations.  It’s not the most complicated story in the world, and the end isn’t entirely unpredictable. That said, Star Born was a wonderful book to read from start to finish.  Going back and forth between Dalgard and Sssuri’s points of view and the points of view of the Terran expedition, Star Born is fast paced, with a tension that builds slowly, drawing you in with every page.

A friend of mine lent me a bunch of Norton titles, and I lent him some Vandermeer and a Doctorow. I think I might have gotten the better end of the deal.

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11 Responses to "Catching up with Classics: Star Born by Andre Norton"

I haven’t read any of Norton’s works yet — although I have five waiting to be read — including her famous Witch World? Have you read it?

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Witch World is in the stack of goodies my friend lent me, I hope I can get to it soon! Or at least he lent me the first 5 books, but according to Wikipedia there were a ton of other spin off novels in that series?

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I have to admit that while I have been trying to do better with reading classics, I never even really thought about all the unread classic sci-fi I have… Now I am thinking I need to work some in!

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I have heard of this book but have never read it. It sounds like one that I would love.

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“Suffice to say, this book doesn’t feel dated. Although in one sense it does, as they just don’t write ‘em like this anymore.”

Boy, isn’t that the truth!

This sounds great and your enthusiasm drove me to order one from ebay. And of course that amazing book cover helped. Wow!!! I do love that cover. I know I’ve seen that artist’s work before, but cannot recall right now whose work it is.

I haven’t read Andre Norton either (a sad truth that goes for many classic and now deceased SFF authors). Will be fun to check out her work.

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I don’t know that I’ve read this one, but I love Norton’s books, especially the world of the Free Traders and the Solar Queen series.

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[...] read and reviewed Star Born, her first Andre Norton novel, and gave it high marks. I too have yet to read any of [...]

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[...] up a copy of this book after Andrea’s glowing review. The cover was just too cool and I have yet to read Andre Norton. I’m about 40 pages into [...]

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[...] year around this time Andrea of Little Red Reviewer posted her thoughts on her first Andre Norton experience, Star Born. Her review coupled with the wonderful Dean Ellis [...]

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My first Andre Norton SF novel was STORM OVER WARLOCK with the very cool Emsh cover. I was 12 years old. I went on to read her TIME TRADER series and, later, the WITCH WORLD series. It took me a few years to realize Andre Norton was a woman. There are 50 Norton books in my collection.

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50? impressive! :D umm, I think I have three. Witch World didn’t do much for me, but as you can see I really enjoyed Star Born and The Stars are Ours.

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