Monday, August 23, 2010

Monstrous Regiment - Terry Pratchett


2003; 389 pages. Book #28 of the Discworld series. New Author?: No. Genre : Fantasy, Humor. Overall Rating : 7½*/10.
.
The pastime of the small kingdom of Borogravia is war. They're constantly fighting one or more of their neighbors. And if a country doesn't happen to abut on their borders, it's okay to fight them too.
.
Polly Perks needs to find her brother, who is a footsoldier in the Borogravian army. But women aren't allowed to join up. So she cuts her hair, dons men's clothing, learns to spit, belch, and walk like a clod, and VoilĂ ! "Polly' becomes "Oliver". She...er... He enlists, gets a spiffy uniform (see bookcover), and with a pair of strategically-placed rolled-up socks, the illusion is complete.
.
She gets put into a small fighting group that includes an idealistic lieutenant, a jaded veteran sergeant, a vampire, a troll, an Igor, a religious visionary, and a cook who can make a passable meal out of anything. But they all have their secrets...
.
What's To Like...
The characters in the Monstrous Regiment are fun to get to know as they interact under trying circumstances. The themes are good - War, Feminism, Religious Fanaticism. Pratchett even touches upon Gay Love, which is unusual for him.
.
The story is slow-go for a while. Lots of marching around, and not a lot of action. Things pick up in the second half. Also, there is almost no Ankh-Morpork in this story. Sam Vimes and Angua are here, but it's little more than some cameo appearances.
.
Kewl New Words...
Eructation : belching, burping, farting, and the like. Guttering : Flickering and dying. Here: a candle's flame. Palliasse : a mattress filled with sawdust, straw, etc. Gabble (vb) : to speak rapidly; to jabber or chatter. Nood : alt. spelling for "nude". Coppice : a dense growth of bushes.
.
Excerpts...
There was always a war. Usually they were border disputes, the national equivalent of complaining that the neighbor was letting their hedge grow too big. Sometimes they were bigger. Borogravia was a peace-loving country in the midst of treacherous, devious, warlike enemies. They had to be treacherous, devious, and warlike, otherwise we wouldn't be fighting them, eh? There was always a war. (pg. 6)
.
"We have a great respect for life, Polly," said Igorina solemnly. "It's easy to kill thomeone, and almost impossible to bring them back again."
"Almost?"
"Well, if you don't have a really good lightning rod. And even if you have, they're never quite the same. Cutlery tends to stick to them." (pg. 206)
.
"There's a grill in the ceiling," said Shufti.
"Not big enough to climb through," said Polly.
"No, but we can hang ourselves before they do."
"I'm told it's a very painful way to die," said Polly.
"Who by?" said Tonker. (pg. 323)
.
That's the trouble about the good guys and the bad guys! They're all guys! (pg. 327)
Monstrous Regiment doesn't have as many yuk-yuks as most Discworld books. That's not necessarily a bad thing. If you want to see Terry Pratchett present, say, the subject of war with a bunch of jokes and one-liners, I recommend Jingo.
.
Instead, you get to see him use a subtler shade of humor here. For example, one of the Regiment "talks" to her god daily. This is usually an easy target for lampooning. Here, Pratchett makes you wonder if there might be something to it.
.
Monstrous Regiment is a good book, but not Pratchett at his finest. With a troll, a vampire, a zombie, a couple of army grunts, and a bunch of new recruits all thrown together, I was expecting a bit more zaniness. 7½ stars.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Women - Charles Bukowski


1978; 291 pages. New Author? : No. Genre : Fictional Autobiography. Overall Rating : 5*/10.
.
Charles Bukowski (via his alter ego, Henry Chinaski) wants you to know that even when he's 50 years old, ugly, and his gut is hanging over his belt; because he's a celebrated poet, beautiful women half his age line up at the door to go to bed with him. Nyah, nyah, nyah.
.
And that the reason he treats them all like dirt is because, before he became famous (his teens, 20's, and 30's), these same women wouldn't give him the time of day. And that the reason he never falls in love with any of them is because he was unloved as a child. Charles Bukowski also wants you to know he's a male chauvinist pig.
.
What's To Like...
The book lives up to its name and Bukowski's reputation. There are bunches of women and bunches of sex. There is booze on every page. There are nine bouts of vomiting, eight of which are by Buko. Yes, I counted them.
.
The girls who rolled in the hay with our studly geezer deserve mention. So there's Lydia, Lilly, Valerie, April, Dee Dee, Nicole, Mindy, Laura, Joanna, Tammie, Mercedes, Cecelia, Liza, Gertrude, Hilda, Cassie, Debra, Tessie, Sara, Iris, Valencia, Tanya, and an unnamed Hispanic hooker. That's a new partner every dozen pages or so.
.
If you muck through all the raunch, there is a lot of insight here as well. And when he isn't drunk, hungover, angry or stoned; Bukowski really is a talented writer. His favorite musician is Randy Newman, and that's worth half a star. And the kewl drawing on the bookcover was done by Bukowski himself.
.
Kewl New Words...
None. Bukowski is the poet of the proletariat. They don't need no high-falootin' words.
.
Excerpts...
Glendoline picked up a chair and started talking. She could talk. If she was a sphinx she could have talked, if she was a stone she could have talked. I wondered when she'd get tired and leave. Even after I stopped listening it was like being battered with tiny pingpong balls. (pg. 12)
.
There is a problem with writers. If what a writer wrote was published and sold many, many copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold a medium number of copies, the writer thought he was great. If what a writer wrote was published and sold very few copies, the writer thought he was great. If what the writer wrote never was published and he didn't have the money to publish it himself, then he thought he was truly great. (pg. 140)
.
Cecelia wanted to go for a constitutional around 2 PM. We walked through the court. She noticed the poinsettias. She walked right up to a bush and stuck her face in the flowers, caressing them with her fingers.
"Oh, they're so beautiful!"
"They're dying, Cecelia. Can't you see how shriveled they are? The smog is killing them."
We walked along under the palms.
"And there are birds everywhere! Hundreds of birds, Hank!"
"And dozen of cats." (pg. 175)
.
Love (is) for guitar players, Catholics and chess freaks. (pg. 249)
One gets the impression Bukowksi is prone to exaggeration in Women. Which he is allowed to do, since he makes it clear this is a novel. Each time after he beds one of the women, they get all clingy and he has to dump them. Yeah right.
.
People either love or hate Bukowski's works, and this book is no exception. The best I can say is, if "Letters To Hustler Magazine" is your kind of prose, then you will find Women to be fantastic. For everyone else, keep in mind that there are some very good parts here, if you dig deep enough. Just remember to wash your hands when you're done. 5 Stars.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse - Robert Rankin


2002; 342 pages. New Author? : No. Awards : SFX Book of the Year (2003). Genre : Humor; Fantasy. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
.
13-year-old Jack comes to Toy City seeking to make his fortune. He meets Eddie Bear (a teddy bear), who is looking for a new detective partner, since his old one, Bill Winkie, has disappeared.
.
Toy City needs their help because someone is methodically and maniacally killing the "old rich" nursery rhyme characters (more correctly called "Preadolescent Poetic Personalities") . Humpty Dumpty has been poached in his magniloquent swimming pool. Little Boy blue has been skewered on his own shepherd's crook. Then there are those ubiquitous chocolate bunnies...
.
What's To Like...
Robert Rankin has created a fascinating world in Toy City. There are toon-sized bars, bawdy bordellos, the revered-but-clueless Toy Maker, and Missy Muffet's popular talk show, "Tuffet". The stars of the book are Jack and Eddie, but the other characters are fun to meet too. Among them are Mother Goose (she prefers to be called 'Madame Goose'), Rhymey Frog, Tinto the barman, and Wibbly, who's one of those sock 'em toys you used to have, bottom-weighted so it always bounced back up.
.
Half the fun of a Robert Rankin book is the wordplay. There are running gags, puns, and understated humor. This makes for a lot of chuckles, but he also manages to take some pokes at some serious subjects, such as capital punishment, religious denominations, and conspiracy theories.
.
Eddie habitually never completes his similes. He's as crazy as. Each chapter ends with a hook, and literary devices, such as a macguffin (here spelled "maguffin") abound. The book ends with a series of twists that keep you guessing.
.
Kewl New Words...
Gormster : a low-level slang term for someone who's an idiot. Iconoclast : one who seeks to overthrow popular ideas or institutions. Winkling : extracting or prying something out from a place or a position. Conurbation : a predominantly urban area, but also including adjacent towns, suburbs, etc. Magniloquent : lofty and extravagant in style. Caryatid : a supporting column in the form of a draped female figure. (Wiki it). Thuya : the wood of a sandarac tree.
.
Excerpts...
The frabious grammeting of the lock against its keep was positively malagrous in its percundity. The greebing and snattering was starkly blark.
And as for the spondabulous carapany that the broken door made as it struck the vestibule floor...
... the word phnargacious is hardly sufficient.
Rapantaderely phnargacious would be more accurate. (pg. 72; an example of Rankin's wordplay)
.
"Big Jack Black
Lived in a sack,
Lived in a sack did he.
He dined upon cripples,
And little boys' nipples,
Served upon toast for his tea." (pg. 86)
.
Eddie placed the item before him upon the bar counter and poked at it with a paw. In terms of the looks of it, it was truly beyond description. But considering its size, or lack of it, its weight was unsurprising. "It looks like the Big M," he said. "The Maguffin. What do you think, Jack?"
"Looks like it to me," Jack agreed. (pg. 187, and as detailed of a description as you'll get of this object)
.
"I love the smell of offal in the morning." (pg. 327)
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse will inevitably get compared to Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy. I doubt either author cribbed off the other, but keep in mind Rankin's book (2002) preceded Fforde's (2006) by several years.
.
THCBotA has some R-rated scenes that seemed ill-fitting. It also took about 70 pages to hit its stride, although once it did, it was a great read. I didn't find it quite as engaging as my previous Rankin book, Brightonomicon (reviewed here), but that's a later work by the author (2005), so maybe he keeps getting better with age. The sequel to THCBotA, The Toyminator, came out in 2006, and is on my TBR shelf. I'm looking forward to further adventures by Eddie and Jack. 8 Stars.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Leper of St. Giles - Ellis Peters


1981; 199 pages. Genre : Murder Mystery. New Author? : Yes. No. Well, kinda. Book #5 (out of 20) in the Brother Cadfael series. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
.
Huon de Domville and Iveta de Massard are about to get married. But it's an arranged affair - strictly a business deal for Huon, and an unhappy event for Iveta, who's in love with Joscelin Lucy, one of Huon's squires. Plus, Huon's old enough to be Iveta's father.
.
Alas, Joscelin becomes an ex-squire when his feelings towards Iveta are brought to light. And he flees when accused of theft by Huon. So when the latter is found dead (by strangulation) on the morning of the wedding, guess who's the prime suspect?
.
What's To Like...
Despite its brevity, there are several themes here - a love story (phbbbt!); a whodunit; and a social commentary on the plight of lepers. There's even a bit of humor, in the person of Brother Cadfael's assistant, the bumbling Brother Oswin.
.
No one is completely evil here, not even Huon. And you can't tell who the killer is by who doesn't get along with Brother Cadfael; he's a monk and gets along with everybody. But, as with any good whodunit, you can pretty much deduce the malfeasant by paying attention to the clues. Still, there are twists at the end that will catch you by surprise.
.
Kewl New Words...
Lots of 'em. Scrofulous : having a diseased appearance resembling scrofula. (Wiki it). Leat : a trench or ditch that conveys water to a mill wheel. Scamp (verb) : to perform hastily. Confutation : an act that proves a person or statement to be in error or false. Byre : a barn. Estampie : a medieval dance and musical form. (the musical form is still known, but the dance itself has been lost in history). Dortoir : a bedroom or dormitory in a monastery. Harebell : wild hyacinth. Cottar : a peasant farmer (who lives in a "cottage"). Bearlead : to lead about (I think). Assart : the act of clearing a forest for agricultural use. Supererogation : an effort above and beyond the call of duty. Pleached : interlaced branches or vines, making a hedge. Hobbledehoy : an awkward, adolescent boy (is that a kewl word, or what?!). Jongleur : a folk singer; a wandering minstrel. Virago : a noisy, scolding, domineering woman. Rouncey : an ordinary, all-purpose horse.
.
Excerpts...
There were always new ones, the wanderers who made their way the length of the land from lazarhouse to lazarhouse, or settled for a while in some hermitage on the charity of a patron, before moving on to new solitudes. Some went on crutches, or leaned hard on staves, having feet maimed by the rot of disease or painful with ulcers. One or two pushed themselves along on little wheeled carts. One hunched shapeless against the fence, bloated with sores and hiding a disfigured face within his cowl. Several, though active, went with veiled faces, only the eyes uncovered. (pg. 5, describing a leper house)
.
He has seen battles, too, in his time in the world, as far afield as Acre and Ascalon and Jerusalem in the first Crusade, and witnessed deaths crueller than disease, and heathen kinder than Christians, and he knew of leprosies of the heart and ulcers of the soul worse than any of these he poulticed and lanced with his herbal medicines. (pg. 5)
.
All you need is love...
Ellis Peters is the pen name that Edith Pargeter used when she wrote whodunits instead of historical novels. I've read one of the latter, reviewed here. Her murder-mysteries border on being cozies - the killing happens off-stage, and there is little or no blood. The trail of the crime here is not particularly convoluted, but it will keep you on your toes.
.
Beyond the story, Peters/Pargeter excels in painting a vivid picture of living in England in 1139 AD. It was a hard life, especially if you were a peasant, a woman, or a leper. Yet it was not a complete misery; there were feast days and wedding celebrations, hunting lodges to relax at, and the protective influence of the church.
.
The author also gives you some non-stereotypical views on justice, Muslim-Christian relations, and the vocation of being a mistress. These may or may not be historically accurate, but they make for some thoughtful reading. And in the end, true love overcomes all. But you knew it would now, didn't you? 8 Stars.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Book of Ash, Volume 1 - Mary Gentle


1999; 424 pages. New Author? : Yes. Full Title : A Secret History, The Book of Ash, #1. Genres : Alt-History, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Fantasy. Overall Rating : 8½/10.
.
Europe in the mid-15th century is a turmoil-embroiled, crappy place to live. A hodgepodge of small kingdoms and duchies vie for power, and mercenary armies roam the countryside looking for employment.
.
One of the mercenary bands is led by Ash. Now in her late teens, she killed her first two men (with just cause) when she was eight. Guided by a voice in her head, she excels in battle tactics. It is challenging to keep her army fed and paid, yet so far she's managed to do it. But there is a great dark force surging northward out of Africa, the like of which Europe has never before seen.
.
What's To Like...
There are two storylines here - one in the present; the other in the 1470's. The present-day one is given as a series of e-mails between a historian and his publisher. He is in the process of translating a newly-discovered manuscript about Ash, and the 1470's timeline is in effect his translation. This allows Gentle to use some modern, anachronistic words, especially when it comes to cussing.
.
The first quarter of the book is historical fiction, and is well done. You can feel the grit and grime, and see the soldiers in their armor, which they have to work at constantly to keep it from rusting. However, around page 135, golems and dwarves and Visigoths show up, and you realize you're not in Kansas anymore. It's a different world, one where Carthage is still a force, and Mithraism exists right alongside Christianity.
.
There is a lot of cussing, and some savagery and ravagery. The coarse language seemed a bit strange coming from a female author, and some readers found it off-putting. Personally, I thought it enhanced the realism.
.
Kewl New Words...
I'm skipping a bunch of technical terms about armor, etc. Gormless : lacking intelligence. Farrago : a motley assortment of things. Bolshie : radical, left-wing (here, an anachronism). Chine : a ridge or crest. Wattle : sticks and poles intertwined with twigs and branches, and used for walls and fences. Frowsty : musty, stale-smelling. Fug : a smoky, smelly atmosphere. Chiaroscuro : an artistic effect characterized by strong, light & dark contrasts of a single color. (Wiki it). Pantler : a servant in charge of the pantry of a large household. Dagged : having a pointed flap along the edge of a medieval garment. Attainted : disgraced, having a stigma (a legal term).
.
Excerpts...
Godfrey must have read something of this on her face. He said to Constanza del Guiz, "Sorry to be so unkempt, my lady. I've been riding from Neuss. Captain Ash's men need her advice on several things, quite urgently."
"Oh." The old woman's surprise was frank and genuine. "Do they need her? I thought she was a figurehead for them. I would have imagined that a band of soldiers functions more smoothly when women are not there."
Ash opened her mouth and the younger serving women whipped a light linen veil over her face.
Godfrey Maximillian looked up from inadvertently shaking his muddy cloak over the tailor's bales of cloth. "Soldiers don't function with a figurehead in charge, my lady. Certainly they don't raise over a thousand men successfully for three years running and have most of the German principalities bidding for their services." (pg. 85)
.
"The heavens are out of order..." Godfrey Maximillian did not stop pacing. There was a book in his hands, illuminated in red and blue; Ash might have made the text out with enough time to spell it letter by letter; he paused by one of the candles and flicked from page to page with a rapidity that both impressed her and filled her with contempt for a man who had no better use for his time than to learn to read. He did not even read aloud. (pgs. 231-232)
.
Don't count your castles before they're stormed. (pg. 249)
This is Book 1 in a 4-part series. It was originally published in the UK as a mammoth 1,133-page single volume. Apparently the publishers think we Americans suffer from ADD. That's ridicu... oh look! A spider!
.
Now where was I? Oh yeah. I found this to be a great start to a monumental story. It's only problem was that the book ended abruptly, which I presume is due to the US publishers breaking up the huge, single story into four equal parts. If you like the genres listed above, and if you're okay with some cusswords and coarseness (Make lust! Not love!), you will find this to be a good read. 8½ stars.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Riotous Assembly - Tom Sharpe


1971; 249 pages. Genre : Fiction; Satire. New Author? : Yes. Overall Rating : 9*/10.
.
"I have just murdered my Zulu cook." With that simple, unambiguous statement, Miss Hazelstone of Jacaranda Park initiates an incredible and zany chain of events that will see 21¼ human fatalities (not to mention a couple animals), a bush that thinks it's Rambo, an obsessed Doberman named Toby, a full-scale police assault, a death sentence with a hanging, and a rubber fetish seduction session. Let mayhem run rampant!
.
What's To Like...
Riotous Assembly is a clever and unlikely pairing of slapstick comedy with the horrors and brutality of South African apartheid. The Piemburg police come off as Keystone Kops, but you also get a chilling glimpse into how the minds of the white ruling class worked, with their de-humanizing attitudes towards the blacks. Sharpe also enlightens you about some of the hate-inspired laws used in that era - the Immorality Act, the Terrorism Act, and last but not least, the Riotous Assembly Act.
.
The humor is laugh-out-loud funny. The action is non-stop. The characters, if not terribly deep, are fun to follow, even the bad guys. There is some cussing, some killing and violence, and some "adult situations". But thankfully, no romance.
.
Kewl New Words...
Faience : a moderate to strong greenish blue color. Durbah : a court of a native ruler. Indaba : a council of indigenous people of Southern Africa called to discuss some important matter. Antimacassar : a protective cloth covering for the backs of chairs and sofas. Perspicacity : shrewd discernment, perception, or understanding. Impetigo : a highly contagious bacterial skin infection. Catarrh : inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose and throat. Abattoir : a slaughterhouse.
.
Excerpts...
...Luitenant Verkramp's efforts to find any saboteurs or Communists in Piemburg to try the (Electrical Therapy Machine) gadget out on had failed so hopelessly that Els had finally had to arrest a native boy he had caught early one morning with a bottle of milk in his hand. The fact that Els knew him to be the milk delivery boy hadn't prevented the Konstabel proving the efficacy of electric shock therapy and after five minutes treatment the boy readily confessed that he had stolen the milk, while after ten minutes he admitted administering poisoned milk to fifty European households that very morning. When Els proposed transferring the terminal from the boy's toe to his penis, the suspect admitted to being a member of the Communist Party and agreed that he had been trained in milk sabotage in Peking. (pg. 9-10)
.
"You say here," continued the Kommandant, tapping the report, "that the Hazelstones are noted for their left-wing and communistic leanings. I would like to know what made you say that."
"Everybody knows they are Marxists," said Verkramp.
"I don't," said the Kommandant, "and I would like to know why you do."
"Well, for one thing Miss Hazlestone's nephew is at the university."
"Doesn't make him a Commie."
"He believes in evolution." (pg. 154-155)
.
"I believe it had a pedigree," the Bishop told them.
"What's a pedigree?" Els asked.
"A family tree," said the Bishop, wondering if killing the dog was going to be added to the list of crimes he was supposed to have committed.
"Fussy sort of dog, having a family tree," Els said to the warder, "you'd think it would pee against lamp-posts like any other dogs." (pg. 164)
.
Entropy made man (pg. 176)
Tom Sharpe is an English author, born in 1928. He emigrated to South Africa in 1951 to teach and do social work; and managed to get himself deported for sedition in 1961. Riotous Assembly was his first novel, and gives you a good idea why the white South African government kicked him out.
.
Combining witty satire with ugly racism seems to be an ill-advised strategy, but it works beautifully here. If you want to be amused and educated at the same time, this is the book for you. 9 Stars.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Time Traders - Andre Norton


2000 (this "Omnibus" edition); 438 pages. Genre : 50's Sci Fi. New Author? : No. See here. Overall Rating : 6*/10.
.
This is a bundling of two Andre Norton books - Time Traders (1958) and its sequel Galactic Derelict (1959). Both books are set in the near future, when both Russia and the USA have discovered time-travel. But Russia has several additional technological wonders, and it is theorized that someone or something in the past is giving them those marvels. So newbies Ross Murdock (TT) and Travis Fox (GD) sign on with a spec ops team to journey back into the past to find this ancient source of secrets and "take it down".
.
What's To Like...
Norton sets you down in some cool historical places, such as Bronze Age northern Europe and Ice Age southwestern USA. There are cool people, such as Beaker Traders, Ax people, Folsom hunters, and long-gone animals such as mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. And there are some not-so-friendly aliens that take exception to us savages making off with their property.
.
The action starts off fast, and all chapters end with a "hook" to keep you turning the pages. There's not a lot of depth of character. Instead, Norton focuses on making the settings come alive. That's true even of the futuristic places, and she heightens the realism by inventing some neat things like "healing jelly" and a "home photo" gizmo which reads the viewer's mind an shows whatever individual images he has of home.
.
There is no sex, booze, or drugs in these stories, so they're safe for the kiddies. There is some killing, but without the gore. The background setting - the cold war between Russia and the USA - is somewhat dated, and it appears that a couple sections of the book were given "updates" in 2000, such as the inclusion of a computer-generated role-playing game.
.
Kewl New Words...
Welter : a confused mass; a jumble. Fetor : an offensive odor. Brindled : brown or grayish in color, with darker streaks or spots. Inimical : unfriendly. Snaffled : seized quickly and easily.
.
Excerpts...
"The Greeks built in stone, wrote their books, kept their history to bequeath it to their successors, and so did the Romans. And on this side of the ocean the Incas, the Mayas, the unknown races before them, and the Aztecs of Mexico all built in stone and worked in metal. And stone and metal survive. But what if there had been an early people who used plastics and brittle alloys, who had no desire to build permanent buildings, whose tools and artifacts were meant to wear out quickly, perhaps for economic reasons? What would they leave us - considering, perhaps, that an ice age had intervened between their time and ours, with glaciers to grind into dust what little they did possess?" (pg. 45)
.
They had not even scratched the surface of was to be found in this ancient port. Had the jungle-cloaked city been the capital of some galaxy-wide empire, as Ashe suspected? They had no time to explore very far. Yes, there would be a return - sometime. And men from his world would search and speculate, and learn, and guess - perhaps wrongly. Then, after a while there again would be a new city rising somewhere - maybe on his own world - which would serve as a storehouse of knowledge gained from star to star. Time would pass, and that city, too, would die. Until some representative of a race yet unborn would come to search and speculate - and guess. (pg. 413)
.
When you give up a belief in luck, you're licked! (pg. 402)
There is nothing epic about Andre Norton stories, but they do keep the action going on a local level, and capture bygone and alien eras quite nicely. The fate of empires might not hang in the balance, but what does transpire seems close to what would really happen the first time we step into the past or onto an alien world light years away from here.
.
Norton's stories show their age, yet in some ways she was quite ahead of her time. The Apache Indians are presented in a favorable light, which is rare. We Americans may be better than them dirty Russkies, but the human race as a whole is cosmologically unimpressive. Her heroes tend to be loners, not squeaky-clean boy scouts.
.
I loved Andre Norton's stories as kid; and still find them fun to read on an occasional basis. But Science Fiction has evolved significantly since its heyday in the 50's. Without that nostalgic tie-in, readers may find her books a bit "meh". 6 Stars.