RogerBW's Blog

Catseye, Andre Norton 23 November 2015

1961 children's SF. Troy Horan was thrown off his planet during the big war. Now he lives hand-to-mouth in the Dipple. But a casual job with an importer of exotic pets leads to unexpected intrigue and danger.

And of course Important Moral Choices, and the consideration that is due to an oath-breaker. It's a bit heavy-handed at times, but it's good solid stuff nonetheless. Some of those imported Terran animals are rather more than they appear, and Troy turns out to have unsuspected mental abilities of his own.

One thing that struck me was that much of the story could have worked just as well in a genre fantasy setting, with flying carpets instead of flitters and spells instead of miraculous tech. Nobody here is a technician (or a wizard), so to them the blasters and pinners and sleepers are just devices that might as well be magical artefacts for all anyone cares. There's little of what I think of as the science-fictional feel here; for that matter a lot of this could have taken place in the Wild West.

On the other hand, there's an unusual early environmental message: hundreds of planets have been ruined by human presence, and Korwar, the setting for this book, only manages to retain some wilderness because it's a place for the rich and powerful of other worlds to come for relaxation.

There are essentially no female characters in the book, though the friendship between Troy and the "Hunter" Rerne follows a standard romantic pattern: meet-cute, getting to know, estrangement, reconciliation. People who look for gay subtext can probably find it here. (Why he's called a Hunter rather than a Ranger, when his job is explicitly about defending the wilderness of Korwar, is never really addressed, unless it's because a small part of his job is leading parties of tourists on hunting trips.)

It's an old-fashioned story that still has some interesting things to say about the human need to be Top Species.

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