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A little, but they were not really the most interesting aspect of the novel. Did the story achieve what it set out to do in terms of world building? Did it make me want to read more? If any further Witch World books can make me as riveted to the history of this world as much as this book did, then absolutely.

Ultimately I would say this was a three and a half star book. Well worth reading for the intricacy and intrigue of the universe Norton has created, but with characters who were outshined by their surroundings.

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Science fiction is often profound. It provides cautionary tales; it explores thorny social issues that are difficult to discuss without metaphor; it glimpses the future. But much of the time, science fiction is just an escape, a genre ripe for stories of adventure.


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The vast frontiers of space or under the sea or the frozen arctic wastes have been the setting for countless such tales since the dawn of the Pulp Era. The prolific Andre Norton had made this type of story her stock in trade. Whether set in a fantasy world, an historical setting, or in a far-flung galactic tableau, her works typically feature a young man gallivanting in a rough-and-tumble environment, surviving by virtue of wit and physical exertion.

American publishing house, Ace Books, also makes this fare its bread and butter. These are often novelized serials from sf magazines. Occasionally, they are purpose-written pieces. Some are subjected to unfortunate edits to cram them into the page format. In short, Ace is something of a bargain-basement venue — the pulps of the book world, if you will. Ace and Norton are, therefore, something of a match made in heaven.

The recent Ace Double, F, features two Norton pieces back to back, one reprint novel and one new novella. Eye of the Monster. The novella half of F is strongly influenced by the recent decolonization in Africa. Monster stars Rees Naper, a teenager whose world is turned upside down when the reptilian inhabitans of Ishkur revolt against the Terran inhabitants upon the withdrawal of colonial police protection from the planet.

Towns are razed, laboratories smashed, religious missions demolished. Naper must make a perilous trek across a treacherous jungle landscape in an armored transport. His goal is simple: to save his own life as well as those of a colonist boy and two female Salarkans one mature, one a child , feline traders from another star.

Can he make it to the better-protected starport before the Ishkurians find him? Two factors, one positive and one negative, make this exciting but rather ordinary piece of adventure stand out. On the plus side, I greatly appreciated the character of Ishbi. The resourceful Salarkan is as important to the story as Rees, tough and competent.

It would not have taken much to add dimension to the story; instead, it comes off as insensitive. Nevertheless, it is a good read, and though the Ishkurians get a shallow, bigoted by analogy portrayal, the character of Ishbi is a bright light in a genre dominated by men. Three stars.


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  • This novel was originally published five years ago, and it feels older. Amidst all this, Cold War tensions are ratcheting up. Just as the frequency of lost divers and vessels reaches a fevered pace, nuclear war breaks out between the superpowers. Continents are torn asunder, new volcanoes are spawned, and Santa Isadore is wracked with geological spasms. The second half of the novel is a tale of survival in a world gone mad. The weather is freakish as caustic winds lash the island, culminating in a ravaging storm.

    Worse, whether spurred by radiation-induced mutation or the atomic rupture of the deeps, the ocean has turned against the land-dwellers: octopi-sapiens and their sea serpent thralls make the waters uninhabitable, capsizing ships and snatching people from the beaches. But the ingenuity of humanity, enabled by both the advanced atomic-fueled science of the navy personnel and the native lore of the islanders, wins the day. At least temporarily. Part Two ends with a number of untied threads: Will the increasingly hostile Santa Isadoreans continue to abide the American soldiers?

    Can there be a meeting of the minds between people and the cephalopod terrors? Are there any centers of population left in the rest of the world? Sadly, there is no Part Three. This is part of what makes Sea Siege a strange book. On the Beach and Alas, Babylon.

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    One starts Sea Siege with the impression that, like those books, it is going to be a gritty, realistic story. The departure into scientific fantasy, while not inexpertedly handled, feels odd. Par for the course with Norton, there is an interesting and diverse cast of characters.

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    In a deep sleep they remember the past lives of their ancestral people to prepare them for the frontier world, while their bodies traverse space to the planet. After a crash landing the crew wake up with little memory of their former lives in the present and even less recollection of their mission. Battling the dual lives crammed into their heads as their memories slowly return, archeologist and animal-talker Travis Fox tries to help his group survive against the Tartar peoples under mind-control by the Reds. So much is my appreciation of her skill as a writer that I took the liberty of familiarizing myself with the rest of the Time Traders series before diving into The Defiant Agents.

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    In Andre Norton hit the science fiction community with the first book of what would become her enduring series, simply titled The Time Traders. It was a critical and commercial success with an enthralling plot about the search for ancient long-lost knowledge. To uncover this treasure trove of information, social misfit and petty criminal Ross Murdock is selected to travel back to the time of the Beaker culture of Bronze-Age Europe. Without significantly changing the timeline, he and his partner, archeologist Dr.

    Gordon Ashe, must blend seamlessly into the people of that time to find the knowledge source before their competition does. Looking back through my own collection of Galaxy I was able to pull up his exact words. The next book in the series is Galactic Derelict. It came in quick succession, being published in October I have unfortunately not been able to lay my hands on a copy yet, but reviews gave enough background information for me to be able to read The Defiant Agents without interruption. Again, reviews seem to be overall positive.

    Which brings us to The Defiant Agents. Norton had left off Galactic Derelict with a daring trip through hyperspace and to several worlds, all covered in the ruins and decaying machinery of a long gone civilization. Gordon Ashe all return in The Defiant Agents.

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    The story mainly focuses on Travis Fox however, with only brief appearances of Ross and Dr. Ashe in the beginning chapters to provide exposition. I was initially though not lastingly underwhelmed by the pace of the plot in The Defiant Agents.

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    With such a steady stream of action and changing scenery in The Time Traders , reading The Defiant Agents felt more like a drama than the action story preceding it.

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