The Stars are Ours by Andre Norton
Tantor Media has been publishing the omnibus editions of Andre Norton’s science-fiction adventures in audiobook format. The omnibus (originally published by Baen) called Star Flight contains the novels The Stars are Ours and Star Born (the PAX/ASTRA duology). Both novels are set in the same universe (ours, actually) but they stand alone.
The prologue of The Stars are Ours, originally published in 1954, is a big infodump which details a frightening future history of the world in which we basically destroy ourselves with extreme nationalism, a nuclear war, a Cold War, terrorism, a propaganda-spewing anti-science demagogue, and racism. This leads to the destruction of civilization and the rise of a global power called Pax. Scientists are blamed for everything and most people are proud of their lack of education. There’s a small secret cabal of Free Scientists, though, who protect knowledge and hope to save humanity by heading for the stars.
After the history lesson we meet a young man named Dard Nordis whose older brother was a Free Scientist. When Dard’s home is raided and he’s forced to kill someone in self-defense, he flees with his niece and seeks the hideout of the Free Scientists. He hopes to gain their trust, not only because he wants protection, but also because he realizes he may have some knowledge that may enable them to build their ship and leave Earth. The rest of the story tells how Dard’s information gets decoded and what becomes of the Free Scientists who want to find a new planet to live on.
The Stars are Ours is a fine adventure, perfect for kids as an introduction to science fiction. The story is exciting and unpredictable, and it contains warnings about the dangers of anti-scientific and emotion-based reasoning, propaganda, nationalism (in contrast to individualism), fanaticism, greed, and lust for power. These are related in infodumps or monologues, unfortunately, but they are timely and weighty themes.
Tantor Media’s edition is narrated by Ryan Burke who does a great job telling Dard’s story.
I’ve always loved that cover for the Ace paperback! It’s sitting right on my bookshelf right now….