Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Storm Over Warlock by Andre Norton

Warning: this is not a proper review. This post is basically my reward for listening to this book all the way through. There are spoilers, but not huge ones.

Storm Over Warlock is the first book by Andre Norton that I've read. I don't think it will be the last either, but that's more because I'm interested in experiencing other things she wrote, than because I enjoyed Storm Over Warlock. I didn't hate it, it didn't annoy me, but — and I think part of this is definitely due to consuming it in audiobook form — I just found it boring. And dated.
The Throg task force struck the Terran survey camp a few minutes after dawn, without warning, and with a deadly precision which argued that the aliens had fully reconnoitered and prepared that attack. Eye-searing lances of energy lashed back and forth across the base with methodical accuracy. And a single cowering witness, flattened on a ledge in the heights above, knew that when the last of those yellow-red bolts fell, nothing human would be left alive down there. And so Shann Lantee, most menial of the Terrans attached to the camp on the planet Warlock, was left alone and weaponless in the strange, hostile world, the human prey of the aliens from space and the aliens on the ground alike.

I listened to it on my drive to and from work (so in chunks of no more than twenty-five minutes at a time) and my mind kept wandering. I'd try to pay attention when I realised I was doing it, but I definitely missed chunks. There were several "wait, how did they get over there?" moments. There were also quite a few interesting issues raised that I wished were explored more deeply (yes, yes, I know I've admitted to zoning out, but it wasn't for that long at a stretch.

I found it interesting that although the main character and the other human came from a fairly patriarchal society, the Warlockian aliens they encounter were aggressively matriarchal, to the point of males belonging to the females and not being able to think for themselves. I liked that Norton included that, although it's definitely one of the aspects I would've liked to see explored in more detail.

There was also some promising things happening with mind control and psychic communication. It made the story a bit more trippy, but that actually worked with the zoning out (confusion for all!). At one point, near the start, Shann makes a reference to having seen "mind-controlled" people before coming to Warlock and I kind of want to know more about that. On the other hand, it's entirely possible more was divulged while I was thinking about what to have for lunch the next day.

I strongly suspect that I would have absorbed more of this book if I'd read it with my eyes rather than my ears. I probably still wouldn't have found it particularly exciting (despite the interplanetary war...) but at least I would have taken it in more coherently. For audiobooks to work for me, I need them to keep me interested the entire time. I've mostly had good luck with that in the past, but not with Storm Over Warlock, unfortunately.

So does anyone have any suggestions of other Andre Norton books for me to try reading? I'm thinking of trying Star Hunter next but I'm open to suggestions.

First published: 1960
Series: Apparently book 1 of 5.
Format read: Audiobook
Source: Librivox.

10 comments:

  1. Try Witchworld, from the beginning - and some of her shorter fiction. Wonderful stuff! It's not for nothing that she was a Grand Master. Serves you right for trying to absorb a book via audio. I never listen to a talking book I haven't read before - I regard them as a performance, an excuse to hear a favourite actor interpret a favourite book. Well, I did buy a Gergette Heyer I hadn't read because the reader was Richard Armitage, but yummy as he is, I never finished listening to it.

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  2. Oh. Just noticed it was a Librivox. ANYONE can read a Book to Librivox!

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    1. Oh yes. But that wasn't the problem. There were two narrator options and, while the first one was entirely incomprehensible (poor quality recording and really weird US accent), the other one, which I listened to, was downright professional. I suspect slightly lower quality would have actually forced me to pay attention, as with Colours of Space.

      Audiobooks in general are only part of the problem. For example I quite enjoyed Red Shirts recently and that was more due to Scalzi than there being anything particularly extraordinary about Wil Wheaton's performance. And I've done OK with most other audiobooks I've tried over the years too. All a combination of factors. And actually, part of the reason I ever started listening to audiobooks was to help train myself to take in aural information and fall asleep less in lectures... of middling success.

      Goodness, there are a lot of Witchworld books, aren't there? Except I'm more interested in classic SF than classic fantasy. Any SF recommendations?

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  3. I've always loved Catseye, which I think I read when I was about twelve. I've read a fair few of Andre Norton's books recently - taking a trip down memory lane, really. One of the things I've noticed is that she's a very descriptive writer, and has rather less dialogue than more recent authors, which may be one of the reasons that you struggled with Storm over Warlock. Having said that, a lot of her books leave the reader longing to know more about the worlds she's invented. There always seems to be hints of other stuff going on. If you read more of them, you'll notice that she gradually fleshes out some of the back history, but it isn't necessarily in the same series. It's almost like she invented a universe and then set a variety of stories in it. You can see the world/universe building slowly progress through her works.

    Perhaps try Plague Ship and its sequels. They're quite complete, and a bit more character driven, in my opinion.

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    1. I'll definitely see if I can get my hands on Catseye. Looks like it's not public domain yet and hasn't been ebookified, so it might take a bit longer to find. Plague ship, on the other hand, is public domain and has been both ebookified and Librivoxed, so that should be much easier to manage. Thanks for the suggestions!

      You might be on to something regarding description. I definitely don't have a problem with reading descriptive passages with my eyes, but thinking back, I think most of the audiobooks I've read have been on the sparser side, or perhaps contained a different type of description. Hmm.

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    2. Plague Ship is book two in a series. Book 1 is Sargasso of Space. Beastmaster is also very interesting.

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    3. Thanks! I've added them to the list.

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  4. Oh yes, Andrea is correct, Book 1 is Sargasso of Space! (And by the way, I really enjoyed your book Stray recently!) I found Catseye on Amazon sold as an eBook in combination with another of Andre Norton's books, Night of the Masks - it's called Masks of the Outcasts.

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    1. Oh, thanks for mentioning Masks of the Outcasts. I probably wouldn't have noticed otherwise. (And yay, it's also available elsewhere, since I don't do Amazon books.)

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  5. Witchworld isn't exactly fantasy. Well, it is, but not in the way you'd think. The hero of the first book comes from our world via the Siege Perilous, which isn't holy, it just takes you to the world that's best for you, even if you are, heaven forbid, a Nazi escaping after WWII! And as I recall, the series was more or less standalone books. Anyway, try the short stories.

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