Tantor Media has published an audio version of Baen’s The Game of Stars and Comets (2009), an omnibus that contains these four novels by Andre Norton: The Sioux Spaceman (1960), Eye of the Monster (1962), The X Factor (1965), and Voorloper (1980). Each of these short novels stands alone and they are all set in Norton’s Council/Confederation universe. I’m reviewing them separately, because that’s what we like to do here, but it’s wonderful that they’re now available in these cost-effective omnibus editions.
Like The Sioux Spaceman, Eye of the Monster takes place on a frontier planet where an indigenous species has been subjugated by colonists. In this case, humans have colonized the planet of the Ishkurians, reptilian hominids that humans call “crocs.”
Our hero, Rees Naper, is the nephew of the man who’s been the commander of the human forces there for twenty years. The humans, who now realize that colonialism is wrong, are getting ready to withdraw. Many think there will be trouble when the human military patrol leaves, but Rees’ uncle doesn’t believe the natives are restless. He thinks the Ishkurians appreciate what the humans have done for them. Rees thinks his uncle is wrong, that the crocs are savage, and they’re just waiting for a chance for revenge. He wants to leave the planet with the rest of the humans, but he feels he must be loyal to his uncle.
It turns out that Rees is right and, while he is away from their base, the Ishkurians attack and murder everybody, including the peaceful scientists. Now Rees is on the run, accompanied by two children he’s trying to protect. Can they evade the “crocs” and get off this hostile planet?
Eye of the Monster follows one of Andre Norton’s common story formulas — young male protagonist on a hostile planet must reach safety without being killed by savage aliens. That’s pretty much it. Descriptions, characterization, and women are sparse, and the action is nonstop (though, in my opinion, this is not one of Andre Norton’s more exciting adventures).
Credit to Norton for raising the issue of colonization. While she appears to suggest that colonialism is immoral and one of the kids chastises Rees for using the degrading term “crocs,” Rees counters that anyone who thinks it’s degrading should see what the crocs have done. I think this issue could have been handled with a lot more heft and nuance.
As I mentioned in my review of The Sioux Spaceman, Tantor Audio’s edition, narrated by L.J. Ganser, is excellent. I look forward to reading the next two books in this omnibus: The X Factor and Voorloper.