Catseye: Another otherworldly adventure by Andre Norton

Catseye by Andre NortonCatseye by Andre Norton science fiction book reviewsCatseye by Andre Norton

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.

Catseye by Andre Norton science fiction book reviewsBut… 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.

Published in print in 1961 and in audio on April 24, 2018. The classic far-future novel about the telepathic bond of friendship between human and animal from the grande dame of science fiction and fantasy. Exiled after his home planet was turned into a military outpost following an interstellar war, Troy Horan is relocated to the planet of Korwar. Under the watchful eye of the police state, he lives in the slums in a restricted area for sub-citizens. He works as a day laborer in an interplanetary pet shop and has no idea why the Terran animals have been imported to Korwar or why he has the ability to silently communicate with them, especially the Kinkajou. But a murder forces him to flee with his animal friends into the Wild, where mysterious, sealed ruins conceal Korwar’s most fiercely guarded secret. With no one he can trust and an entire government under siege, Troy leads his extraordinary band of warriors in a final bid for freedom none of them may survive. This action-packed, classic outsider story will be enjoyed by listeners of all ages.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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  1. Sandy Ferber /

    I really enjoyed this book, too, Kat, when I read it around 35 years back. I currently own the old Ace edition that you have shown on the right side of this review. I had forgotten that Norton chose to name the planet on which Troy grew up…Norton. That’s like me writing a book and naming a planet Ferber. Kinda strange, no?

    • LaoWombat /

      Erh, the name of the planet is Norden, not Norton. (close enough, but an amateur psychologist I am not sure of the significance given here description of the planet).
      I thought at first it was a precursor to the beast master series, but that got started first.

      • Thanks, LaoWombat. I have made that correction. I THOUGHT I had confirmed it before writing this review but if I did, I checked an incorrect source. More likely I thought I had checked but forgot to. The audiobook reader seemed to say “Norton” but maybe I was primed for that because now that I just went back and listened again, I can hear it as “Norden.” THANKS!

  2. Paul Connelly /

    I think I started reading Andre Norton around 1960, and there was no confusion then about the fact that she was a woman. She did write a lot of books with no or almost no female characters, but that changed around the time of the Witch World series. Even before that, I recall she had a strong female character, Lady Asgar, in Star Gate, an early favorite of mine.

    Usually she gets knocked for having somewhat cardboard characters–not much introspection beyond what’s absolutely necessary for the plot. I think that also improved over time, although a fair number of her protagonists remained socially awkward–matching the readers in the age group typically reading these books. A more valid criticism is that there were stretches in some of her later books where it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, as the protagonist tried to feel his or her way through some unfamiliar environment.

    Norton’s juveniles were more fun and less talky than Heinlein’s…but Heinlein did have more female characters in his books. The irony!

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