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 but they are all set in Norton’s Council/Confederation universe. I’m going to review them separately, because that’s what we like to do here, but it’s wonderful that they’re now available in cost-effective omnibus editions in print and audio formats.
In The Sioux Spaceman we meet Kade Whitehawk, a young man of Native American (Lakota) descent who serves in the Space Service. He screwed up in his last assignment but is being given a second chance by a commander who thinks he might be uniquely qualified for a particular dangerous mission. If Kade screws up again, there will be dire consequences.
Kade and his colleagues are sent to a planet called Klor where they hope to open a trade route with the Styors, the aliens who have colonized the planet. As Kade begins to become familiar with the political situation there, he realizes that he has been given this assignment because he’s good with animals and one of the Styors is trying to establish a zoo on Klor for his own pleasure.
Kade also discovers that Klor is inhabited by a native species called the Ikkinni who’ve been enslaved by the aliens who arrived with superior weapons and cruelly subjugated them. Kade feels empathy towards the Ikkinni and hatches a clever plan to help them fight back and rid themselves of their evil overlords. It involves introducing horses to Klor, which is why the subtitle of The Sioux Spaceman is “Beware the Horsemen of the Stars.”
The Sioux Spaceman is exactly the kind of story I’ve come to expect from Andre Norton, but I would rate it as a “lesser” Norton work. It’s heavy on the action, light on the world-building and characterization, and told in a simple linear fashion that’s probably most appealing to young adults. When she wrote it, Andre Norton likely had teenage boys in mind for her target audience.
There are no women in this novel, and the story, which is only mildly entertaining (certainly not one of her more exciting adventures) contains a small dose of the type of casual sexism and racism often seen in science fiction stories published in the mid-twentieth century. But let’s give Andre Norton credit for choosing a Native American for her hero in The Sioux Spaceman.
Tantor Audio’s edition, narrated by L.J. Ganser, is excellent, and I’m happy to have had the chance to read this story in this format. I’m so glad that Tantor has been producing Norton’s work in audiobook format.