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Beast Master's Planet: Omnibus of Beast Master and Lord of Thunder

de Andre Norton

Sèrie: Beast Master (Norton) (Omnibus 1,2)

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In 1959 Andre Norton published The Beast Master, a fast-paced science fiction adventure that introduced to readers a new kind of hero, Hosteen Storm. Storm, a Navajo from the American southwest, served in the Planetary Confederacy forces as a Beast Master teamed with an African eagle, a meercat, and a dune cat.Telepathically linked to his team animals, Storm served valiantly in the war that eventually defeated the alien Xiks, though victory could not prevent the aliens from destroying Earth. With his homeworld gone, Storm emigrated to the colonized frontier planet Arzor, where he would have to help fight a holdout Xik force that has brought the war to his adopted home.In Lord of Thunder, Storm's beast master skills and animal partners are needed to unravel the mystery behind a huge gathering of the indigenous Norbies. Only Storm and his half-brother Logan Quade can penetrate the Norbies' clan secrets and discover what is behind the threat of an uprising that could destroy the tenuous peace between the colonists and the aliens who share their planet.These two novels are science fiction adventure at its best. Here is exciting space opera full of colorful, absorbing SF action on an alien world, as only Andre Norton can write it.… (més)
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‘Beast Master’s Planet’ contains two novels: ‘Beast Master’ and ‘Lord of Thunder’.

Meerkats! Nowadays these cute little critters are used to sell insurance comparison websites in England and everybody loves them. Back in 1959 when ‘The Beast Master’ was written they were not so well known, I bet.

The meerkats, an African black eagle and a large specially bred cat named Surra are the beast companions of Hosteen Storm, once a Galactic Commando with the Terran military, now a man without a home. Earth, the mother planet of the Confederacy, has been reduced to a radioactive cinder by the Xik in a war just finished and the Terrans who were not there have to be re-homed. At the start of ‘The Beast Master’, Storm is in a Separation Centre set up to restore the mental health of traumatised Terrans before moving them to other worlds. Hosteen Storm has chosen Arzor, a frontier planet where his Navajo skills may prove useful. There, giant beasts called Frawns roam the plains and are hunted for their waterproof skins and delicious meat. Humans co-exist with the native Norbies, brilliant horsemen, primitive and not unlike Amerindians in days of yore. It’s a natural home for Storm.

On landing at Arzor, he gets a job herding horses across country, his Beast Master skills obviously useful in taming the wilder ones. Soon he hears about Brad Quade, a big shot around those parts and the main reason he came to this planet. Hosteen Storm has a blood debt to pay with Quade, a man he has never met, as the result of an old family feud. The plot thickens nicely.

It’s all quite logical. Machines, parts and fuel would have to be expensively imported to frontier worlds so they do better using their own resources. So space westerns make sense and the genre is good fun, from Heinlein’s ‘Dora’ segment in ‘Time Enough For Love’ to the television cult classic series ‘Firefly’ which featured a few episodes of this ilk.

‘Beast Master’ starts off as mostly a western but soon develops into Science Fiction as other elements are added to the story. Westerns tell familiar yarns with familiar themes but the classics of the genre have more interesting characters and a bit more depth. Andre Norton wrote a classic space western in 1959 and it has withstood the test of time.

‘Lord Of Thunder’ is essentially more of the same. The briefest mention of the plot acts as a bit of a spoiler for the first book but sophisticated readers aged over four will realise that the hero probably survived that adventure. In ‘Lord Of Thunder’, there is trouble afoot with the native Norbies. They are having a gathering of the clans and retreating to the mountains to make ‘medicine’. The withdrawal of their labour will make life tough for the ranchers in the dry season. The plot gets complicated when Hosteen Storm is introduced to a very wealthy man called Gentle Homo Lass Widders. Gentle Homo, it seems, is the title given to a civilised chap from the inner worlds. If you called a British bloke ‘Gentle Homo’ thirty years ago you would have got a dirty look at best and possibly a punch in the nose. American slang may have been different. Anyway, the son of Widders was on a spaceship that hit an old mine from the late Xik war and managed to get aboard a lifeboat that crashed into the Blue, an area of Arzor where no man dares go due to bands of wild roaming cannibal Norbies. The Gentle Homo wants Hosteen Storm to go and rescue his son.

‘Lord Of Thunder’ wasn’t quite as enjoyable for me as the first book but it was perfectly good. It’s nice to get two novels in one volume. The double helping comes about because adventure novels were shorter fifty years ago. The late Andre Norton states, in an interview on her website, that back then she would write eighteen chapters of ten pages each and have a book of sixty-five thousand words which was perfectly acceptable to the boys on the business end. Nowadays, for economic reasons, publishers won’t settle for less than a hundred thousand words. We are poorer for this but electronic publishing is changing it slowly. Hurrah! The other good news is that Andre Norton’s estate was settled a while back and disputes over rights cleared up so more of her old classics are up for publication again. Hurrah! For a few of my teenage years, I was mad for Norton’s works and look forward to revisiting more in time to come. Judging by this pair, they are still good reads. The occasional leavening of exclamation marks merely adds to their pulpish charm.

Eamonn Murphy
This review first appeared at https://www.sfcrowsnest.info/

( )
  bigfootmurf | Aug 11, 2019 |
https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/3095510.html

Long long ago, I think even when I was in primary school (so, more than forty years ago), I read The Beast Master, and it stuck with me. Not quite so long ago, I got it and its sequel, Lord of Thunder, in a single volume, Beast Master’s Planet. Both concern a future galaxy where Earth has been destroyed in the final act of a war with the alien Xik, and our protagonist, Hosteen Storm, is (as far as he knows) the only survivor of the Navajo. He is an ex-soldier, trained to have a psychic link with his animal conpanions - two meerkats, an eagle and a big tiger-like cat, and he is sent to the planet of Arzor to earn his living as a civilian.

Arzor turns out to be a sparsely settled planet whose main industry appears to be the ranching of the cattle-like frawns, carried out by human settlers in negotiation with the indigenous Norbies, who have a complex tribal structure and totem-based religion. Hosteen Storm becomes a horse wrangler. It’s basically the Old West in space, although nobody ever says that, with Storm set up as uniquely placed to bridge the communication gap between humans and natives. Basically he is a Magical Indian.

It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a single female speaking character in either book. Storm’s mother is mentioned in passing, but she is dead. The Norbies seem to be all male. Storm’s animals are female, which is interesting.

The Beast Master

Still, the first book reminded me of the magic it exerted on my mind in a Belfast classroom long ago. (I think I may have even written a book report on it.) I appreciated then the tragic burden carried by Storm as the last of his tribe, charged by his grandfather with maintaining a family vendetta (which drives a lot of the narrative) but then also caught up in both a Xik plot against the humans and the discovery of lost ancient alien tech under the mountains. The tone of the book is detached, measured and firm. The flaws are still there, but the fact is that this was an sf book featuring a Navajo protagonist at a time (1959) when the future was mainly seen as white.

Lord of Thunder

The sequel has some string similarities to the first book (more alien tech under the mountains) but features an arrogant rich offworlder demanding that Storm penetrate dangerous Norbie territory in order to find his lost son. There’s a strong message that messing with the aliens is best left to the experts like Storm and his new family the Quades. The offworlder disregards Storm’s advice, with disastrous consequences all round which Storm has to try and put right, providing more exciting adventure. But I was not really satisfied with the end of the story, which introduced new hither-to unmentioned dangers, and then wrapped everything up rather quickly. I would not recommend it as strongly as the first volume.

Still, bearing in mind that both are books of their time, they are good reads. ( )
  nwhyte | Nov 25, 2018 |
I like Storm - these two stories are not quite Norton's usual formula, which makes them more interesting to me. Storm already knows about and knows how to use his link with his beasts, and he's not an outcast kid searching for a place to belong. At least, he doesn't think so...Huh. On the re-read, I was looking for a particular scene - a confrontation with an evil flyer - that wasn't there. Swear I read it somewhere! Also was noticing a few typos - guess I'm in a nitpicky mood. Nothing to obstruct reading, though a misplaced line confused me for a moment. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | May 15, 2008 |
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In 1959 Andre Norton published The Beast Master, a fast-paced science fiction adventure that introduced to readers a new kind of hero, Hosteen Storm. Storm, a Navajo from the American southwest, served in the Planetary Confederacy forces as a Beast Master teamed with an African eagle, a meercat, and a dune cat.Telepathically linked to his team animals, Storm served valiantly in the war that eventually defeated the alien Xiks, though victory could not prevent the aliens from destroying Earth. With his homeworld gone, Storm emigrated to the colonized frontier planet Arzor, where he would have to help fight a holdout Xik force that has brought the war to his adopted home.In Lord of Thunder, Storm's beast master skills and animal partners are needed to unravel the mystery behind a huge gathering of the indigenous Norbies. Only Storm and his half-brother Logan Quade can penetrate the Norbies' clan secrets and discover what is behind the threat of an uprising that could destroy the tenuous peace between the colonists and the aliens who share their planet.These two novels are science fiction adventure at its best. Here is exciting space opera full of colorful, absorbing SF action on an alien world, as only Andre Norton can write it.

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