23 April 2010
#14 Darkness and Dawn by Andre Norton
There's an idea that's been rattling around in the back of my head for years now, an idea relating to stories and the apocalypse and new civilizations and whatnot. Periodically, this idea rears up and tries to make me act on it. When this happens, I usually find books on a certain topic or of a certain genre, read them, and call it "research". That's why I read this book.
Darkness and Dawn is made up of two different stories, previously published as Star Man's Son and No Night Without Stars. They are different stories, set perhaps in different worlds, and don't really have much in common aside from a post-apocalyptic theme. The first story is about Fors of a mountain clan, an outcast because of his mutant white hair. With no future in his tribe, Fors strikes out to the wilderness in the footsteps of his father. A great explorer who died at the hands of the Beast Things, his father left Fors with the hope of discovering unknown cities and remnants of the times before the Great Blowup. Avoiding the dangers of the wilderness, Fors does indeed find an unexplored city, where he saves the life of a young explorer from a southern civilization. Traveling together, the two young men make wonderful discoveries, face horrific danger, and ultimately forge peace between peoples of their world.
The second story tells of Sander, an apprentice smith who leaves his people to discover the secrets of metal that were lost in the Dark Time. In a seaside village that fell victim to raiders, Sander encounters Fanyi, who also seeks lost knowledge, but her quest is for the sake of power and revenge. Sander and Fanyi are mysteriously guided or pulled across a deserted landscape until they come to a place that preserved the technologies of the Before People. Here, the two realize that technology and power aren't necessarily the best path to accomplishing their goals.
These stories reiterated for me why I've generally disregarded the works of Andre Norton. I understand that she may be regarded as a ground-breaker and a pioneer in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but her writing simply doesn't do it for me. I find it wordy, weak, and disjointed. There's not enough story-telling and too much writing.
Aside from the writing, the stories are interesting. Norton fits into the category of authors whose stories make me want to know what happens, even if the writing isn't strong enough to pull me along. Of these two, Star Man's Son is the better story. It's more plausible and better developed. It has a very elementary structure and is not something that I would class as adult literature, but once I was a couple chapters in, I wanted to know how it ended. No Night Without Stars left me wanting to quit, but I persevered so that I could say I finished the book. It's your call; I probably wouldn't recommend this title to anyone, but I wouldn't tell you not to read it, either.