I treated myself for Christmas to a very old copy of Star Rangers by Andre Norton. This was first published in 1953, though I came across it in the early 1970s, in the science fiction section of Godalming town library (a place where I spent many happy hours and borrowed many exciting books). My “new” copy is in the old style of s-f novels – the cover is in garish colours and has almost nothing to do with the plot, and the title is picked out in rather psychedelic colours.
So why write about this book? Well, Star Rangers was the first book that I read that made me want to write. As a young teenager, I even got so far as writing out in pen and ink – real ink, albeit in cartridges rather than from a bottle – the first page or two of a sequel. This draft is long since lost, which is probably just as well all things considered, but I can still remember the excitement of reading this book and feeling the desire to do something creative in response. Even now, one way I decide how much I like a book is the extent to which it makes me want to write – if it doesn’t trigger an impulse towards creativity in me, I don’t include it in my top shelf of books!
So, how was it to re-read the book? By way of explanation, I re-read some others of Andre Norton’s books (Judgement on Janus and Victory on Janus) earlier in the year, and found them heavy going. Those particular books, which I had enjoyed so much in my teens, had dated rather poorly. So it was with some trepidation that I approached Star Rangers. Happily, this book has aged extremely well. The storyline is still engaging, many of the issues have contemporary echoes (prejudice, illness brought accidentally to indigenous populations, social disintegration, etc). Alien species, unusually for that time, are treated sympathetically and creatively. Both physical and mental combat are handled well. There’s not a huge amount of character development, but the main individuals have to constantly adjust to changing situations which make their course of action increasingly constrained. The final discovery – which tact forbids I reveal in detail – still gave me a thrill of excitement when I read it yesterday, just as it did all those years ago. Great stuff.
That’s it for now… back to writing soon…