Book review: “No Night Without Stars” by Andre Norton

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Book review: “No Night Without Stars” by Andre Norton

Andre Norton’s “No Night Without Stars” landed in bookstores in 1975.

That was 23 years after her book “Star Man’s Son,” better known as “Daybreak — 2250 A.D.,” appeared in print.

In 2003, Baen Books put the two short novels together into an omnibus titled “Darkness and Dawn.”

I give this bit of publishing history because I read “No Night Without Stars” from that omnibus and because “Daybreak — 2250 A.D.” was a seminal book in my reading life.

Both novels deal with a ravaged American landscape hundreds of years after an atomic war.

Indeed, “Daybreak,” published just seven years after Hiroshima, may have been the first science-fiction novel to mine this concept. (Many other writers have since taken up the subject in books and movies, such as “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and the Mad Max films.)

In “Daybreak,” Fors is a mutant who, because of his silver hair and better eyesight, is viewed with fear by his clansmen. Overlooked yet again for full membership in his tribe, he flees his home village to search with his feline companion Lura for the lost city his father had been trying to find when he was slain in battle.

I initially read “Daybreak” around 1960 when I was 10. Fors’ feelings of being an outcast, a mutant and an outsider resonated deeply with my own pre-teen emotions and experiences. He goes out into the world to find not just his father’s lost city but even more to find himself. That resonated deeply with me.

Like many of Andre Norton’s heroes, Fors had a strong, clear telepathic connection with Lura. I was never one for pets, but, as I look back, I suspect that, for me, my Lura was my ability to write, or maybe it was my desire to look deeply and broadly at life. Whatever it was, I knew I was different from other kids my age. (Of course, I suspect that all pre-teens and teens have the same feelings of being different.) I certainly felt that I was different.

Throughout her long career, Norton’s writing was constrained by her target audience — teenage boys. She wrote adventure stories set in the future. She wrote for publishers who imposed strict limits on their writers so as not to rile parents.

Hence, no sex, no romance.

“Daybreak” rises above its limitations. It’s not great art. Yet, there is a mythic quality to the search the Fors undertakes. There’s a simplicity in his efforts to face the world and to find his way, find himself. It is a kind of primitive art that, for me, then and now, was very powerful.

“No Night Without Stars” is a lesser work. I realize that my judgment is colored by the fact that I’ve read the book a half century after I first read “Daybreak” — read it with a half century’s more experience and insight, and understanding of a life’s journey.

Still, objectively, it seems a more muddied story.

Sander, like Fors, has lost his father, and he decides to leave his tribe because he’s been passed over. Sander is a metal smith, and he wants to learn the secrets of metal-working of the Before People.

He has a coyote-like sidekick Rhin, but, instead of traveling alone, he quickly joins forces with Fanyi, a shaman with her own cat-like companions. She seeks the deeper knowledge that her father had described before his death.

So we have two fatherless (and motherless) orphans in their late teens or early 20s, both with animal allies, both on a quest.

The story is told from Sander’s perspective, but, as it evolves, it becomes more about Fanyi’s quest. (In “Daybreak,” Fors does make a friend of another male searcher, Arskane, but the story remains tightly focused on Fors’ own search.)

Also, because they’re two young people, the absence of even thoughts of lust and/or love is glaring here.

In “Daylight,” there were humans on one side of the battle for the landscape, and, on the other side, there were the beast-things.

In “No Night Without Stars,” there are a variety of human, semi-human and non-human adversaries that Sander and Fanyi have to face. Norton allots only a few pages to each threat before she moves on to the next. The succession of threats becomes routine — and somewhat boring.

Still, “No Night Without Stars” is an enjoyable read. It just seems much weaker when packaged with what, for me, was the powerfully evocative story of “Daybreak.”

Patrick T. Reardon
11.19.11

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