Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review: 'Star Gate' by Andre Norton

3 / 5 Stars

‘Star Gate’ was originally published in 1958; this Ace paperback (188 pp.) was evidently issued in 1971; the cover artist is uncredited.

In the far future Terrans, as a race of 'Star Lords', have spread throughout the galaxy, often taking up permanent residence among worlds settled by less advanced humanoid races. For a small civilization of Terrans housed on the planet Gorth, where the aboriginals eke out a living using medieval-era technology, there is debate among the Star Lords as to the wisdom of raising up their foster-home culture to the space-age level. 

Do the Star Lords have the right and duty to interfere in the development of a culture not their own ? 

A decision is made: the Star Lords will depart, and let the native Gorthians evolve without interference.

Kincar s’Rud, the orphaned son of a Star Lord and a Gorthian woman, finds himself bereft of land and title by a usurper. Hearing rumors of a Star Lord encampment where spaceships are heading to distant planets, he sets off across the wilderness to find the camp, and perhaps a new career among the Terrans.

After some violent encounters with outlaws amid the mountain passes, Kincar joins a group of Star Lords, and their half-breed progeny, in the midst of fleeing an attack by a bandit army. The Star Lords pass through a hastily erected ‘Star Gate’, which leads them to an alternate universe and an alternate Gorth.

On this version of Gorth, the Star Lords rule as cruel despots, abusing and enslaving the native population. The Star Lords of Kincar’s party are determined to bring down their evil doppelgangers.

Kincar is dispatched to find a weakness among the corrupt rulers of the alternate Gorth, a dangerous task made complicated by the fact here, the counterpart of his father is alive and well…..and quick to order the death of any half-breed that comes into his clutches.

‘Star Gate’ (the book apparently has no relation to the 1994 MGM film, or the subsequent television series) like much of Norton’s fiction, was aimed at a young adult audience, but I think older readers will find it worthwhile as well. The prose is clear and direct, and the while the plot is fast-moving, the world of the alternate Gorth, its rogue Star Lord masters, and their fearful slaves, is sketched with sufficient depth. 

Reading ‘Star Gate’ as I did, after digesting yet another early 70s New Wave anthology, was a nice change of pace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This cover painting for Star Gate is by John Schoenherr, still one of my favourite illustrators.