Sunday, 13 January 2013
Vintage Reads and Women of Genre: CATSEYE by Andre Norton
CATSEYE by Andre Norton is the first book by her that I've read. It is the first one in the Women of Genre challenge for me, my January read. It is also a vintage science fiction novel my first read for the Vintage Science Fiction reading month.
Catseye was published in 1961. Look at this fun cover - I really like it.
It was the cover title, how it was printed, that convinced me to buy it - that 60's illustration is irresistible to me.
Catseye was fun. It is set in the future, far in the future, on a planet named Korwar, which is a pleasure planet for the rich of the Planetary Council. The Confederation is the other galactic power. Earth is part of the known galaxy, though it is known as Terra and is not important any more. Nor is the world of Norden, that Troy Horan is from. He is the main character of Catseye, a young man who is from the Dipple, the ghetto place on Korwar where the poor and dispossessed gather, live, and die if they are unable to find work outside of their ghetto. Troy has been looking for work for a long time, until one day as this novel opens, his credentials - being from Norden, and having knowledge of animals, is part of a want ad someone has posted. It's a pet store, but not any pet store. All the different animals from different worlds are bought and sold here. Among the rich of the Planetary Council, having a pet no one else has is a rare and valuable trophy. Troy goes for a day's work, as the store is expecting a shipment of animals. When their flyer is attacked bringing home the animals and the other main man in charge of the animals, Zul, is hurt, Troy is hired to cover his work.
I wanted to read this book because I wanted to know what cats had to do with it. And right from the beginning, cats are a big part of this book. We are not told what kind of cats are brought in, but rare cats from Terra are what Troy and Zul pick up that first day. And from the moment he is near hte cage, Troy has the odd sense that the minds of one of the cats is touching his. Later, Troy is sent to help calm a monkey-like creature who is found at the scene of a murder, pawing through the dead man's papers. And then finally two rare foxes are also brought to the pet store. And Troy is drawn to help them, for they all share the same thing: they are able to touch his mind, he is able to communicate directly with them. These animals are part of a genetic experiment to breed animals to communicate telepathically with men. However, this is a secret project, that is now being used by members who want to get the Planetary Council off Kolwar. However, if this happens, then the planet will not be deemed a pleasure planet, and the sanctity of the forest reserve, which has one of the few wild places left in the galaxy, will be destroyed in a development.
The mystery and battle for the planet are all secondary in this novel to the real story, which is the developing closeness between Troy and the animals. When they are forced to flee together, they must learn to rely on each other to survive, although Troy is always aware that at any time, the animals could choose to leave him. There is a critical moment at the end of the book where Troy is offered the chance to go back to Norden as a Range Master, which his father was before him there, before they were forced to leave for Kolwar. The deal though, includes Troy giving up the animals to those who want to destroy them to hide any trace of the conspiracy to get rid of the Council. I won't give away what Troy decides to do, though I will admit that my heart was in my mouth. I had come to care about the animals, and Troy even.
I often find futuristic novels full of the science of imagining new things in the future, and not on characters or story so much. This one had some of that, mostly to describe a world and a culture we have never seen, but rescues the story with Troy and his concern and care for the animals. It turned into an interesting world, especially where Troy ends up, and I find myself wanting to know what happened to him next. The animals were very realistic, and their language skills were not complex, they were basic, like the images animals must indeed come to know the world with. Since I also enjoy reading about telepathy and psychic abilities, I enjoyed this novel for these elements too. They occur only with Troy and the few animals, though he does have an ability to work with all animals, that he has inherited from his father.
All in all, this was an enjoyable vintage science fiction read. A good way to start off the Women in Genre challenge. It does make me want to read Witchworld, Andre Norton's most famous novel, at some point.
Carl's Sci-fi Experience, also.