Marcus Crouch

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 641

The two acknowledged masters of mainstream SF for young readers are André Norton and Robert A. Heinlein. Despite their almost parallel careers and their comparable status, their achievements have wide differences in style and manner. André Norton's strength lies in atmosphere. She gives a tangible quality to the most improbable invention by clothing it in vividly imagined detail, and her highly charged style—admittedly a little hard to digest in large quantities—evokes with equal success the terrors of darkness and the blinding glare of light. Hers is an astonishingly complete vision; she describes the topography and the sociology of new worlds as if from the life, giving them a kind of actuality rather like that of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings—although in no other way does she approach the breadth and range of his achievement.

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André Norton tells a good tale, too, but here she is a shade derivative. For all the wonder of the settings, the action of her stories might almost be that of a Western. The strange worlds are often divided neatly into goodies and baddies, and the latter, after great hazards, bite the dust as convincingly as if they were redskins or rogue cowboys.

Here, however, is a writer who develops with each book; and the naiveties which made a good story like The Beast Master … difficult to accept with unconditional seriousness, are being gradually purged.

Dark Piper … has a concentrated power and, if the word is not unacceptable for an off-world story, humanity which marks a long stride forward. Her books continue to make difficult reading. An imaginative experience so completely realized can only be shared through the reader's total surrender, and not everyone is willing, or able, to follow her along some of her perilous paths. The inability to select which the writer showed in her earlier books, too, is an obstacle which not all young readers can surmount. (pp. 54-5)

Marcus Crouch, in his The Nesbit Tradition: The Children's Novel in England 1945–1970 (© Marcus Crouch 1972), Ernest Benn, 1972.

It seems that Star Born was first published in 1957 which does not make it easy to relate it to Andre Norton's other science fiction stories. I get the impression she has written tauter, tenser and clearer works since then. Followers of Star Trek and Dr. Who will have no difficulty in sorting out the differing humanoid life forms who fight each other for survival on a strange planet. The sheer inventiveness of science fiction is half its charm, and yet there is nothing new on the Planet Astra…. This is a good story for those for whom suspension of disbelief is easily achieved. Embedded in the space chatter is a philosophic gem which asks the question "What is man?" The science fiction writer's freedom to invent so many life forms may make the question curiously difficult to answer, but it is interesting to note that the question is actually asked and is still relevant. (p. 273)

The Junior Bookshelf, August, 1973.

Although Andre Norton writes science fiction stories based on a world of the future, her characters, whether they be the Star men or, as in [Breed to Come,] the cats and the rat-like anti-heroes called rattons, are based very much on humanity. Through all the writings shines the quality of deep understanding of peoples. The author weaves into her free imaginative world, human values and human reaction in the handling of their complex affairs….

This deeply moving and sensitive story will be much appreciated by the older teenagers, and it would be a pity if those not addicted to science fiction stories were to miss the depth of meaning, for there is much here about fear, the conflict between good and evil, the creation of society and its structures, and the need to preserve for posterity the best of what we have…. (p. 281)

The Junior Bookshelf, August, 1973.

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