Andre Norton’s novels are always a good option when you’re in the mood for an exciting, fast-paced, imaginative, and family-friendly adventure story. This one stars Troy Horan, a young man who lives hand-to-mouth in a ghetto called The Dipple on the luxury planet of Korwar. He’s a refugee from his home planet of Norden which has now been commandeered as a military outpost. Back home, his family were herders and his father, at least, seemed to have some sort of empathetic bond with the animals he cared for. Troy, being young when he was on Norden, isn’t quite certain about the nature of that bond.
When Troy gets an unexpected job offer from the owner of an exotic pet emporium, Troy realizes that his heritage may be an advantage. On his first day of work, Troy indeed feels an effortless rapport with the animals he cares for. And when a couple of murders occur and it increasingly becomes clear that the animals are in danger from some sort of political plot, Troy reluctantly gets involved.
Catseye (1961) provides the type of entertainment that I’ve come to expect from an Andre Norton story. It’s got a cool far-future setting (it doesn’t feel dated at all), decent world-building, a likeable protagonist, an adventurous plot and, in this case, adorable telepathic animals. It’s clean, simple, and linear, unburdened by efforts to be literary or socially conscious.
But… speaking of socially conscious… it always makes me a little sad that 1. Alice Norton had to write this type of fiction under a man’s name (otherwise, I assume, boys and men wouldn’t buy the books) and 2. that she so often neglected to include females in her dramatis personae. There is not a single female character in Catseye (other than a passing reference to one or two pampered wives who own exotic pets). I’m disappointed that Ms. Norton, who must have an adventurous spirit, and was obviously aware of her own gender when writing these stories, so often didn’t take the opportunity to include a couple of bold girls or women in her fiction.
On the other hand, I greatly admire Ms. Norton for writing adventures stories at a time (1961) when women rarely did that. And, most of all, I’m happy that the past few decades have seen this state of affairs gradually change. We’ve come a long way, and it’s a better world today for female writers and readers.
Thanks to Tantor Audio for recently publishing Catseye. The audiobook is 8.5 hours long and is narrated by Eric Michael Summerer whose voice works well for this story. I hope that Tantor Audio will keep producing Andre Norton’s novels in audio format.