Voorloper (1980) is the last novel collected in The Game of Stars and Comets (2009), Baen’s omnibus of Andre Norton stories. I’ve been reviewing the books individually (because they were originally released as separate novels), but it’s cost-effective and convenient to purchase them in the omnibus edition. Specifically, I’m reviewing Tantor Media’s new audio version of the omnibus, which is excellently narrated by L.J. Ganser.
The first three books in this omnibus are The Sioux Spaceman (1960), Eye of the Monster (1962), and The X Factor (1965). Though they’re set in the same universe, each short novel stands alone and you don’t need to read the first three to enjoy Voorloper.
On the agricultural world of Voor, a young man named Bart and his father are Voorlopers — they wander the planet, trading goods from their wagon pulled by beasts called gars (not the creatures shown on the book’s cover which play an extremely minor role in Voorloper’s plot).
Years ago they had a home and a family in one of Voor’s first human settlements, but the “shadow doom” killed everyone in the town except for Bart. Since his father was away, travelling at the time, he also survived. Similar deadly events happened in other settlements on Voor with only a few very young children surviving.
Bart and his father reluctantly team up with a healer named Illo who has also been affected by the shadow. As they visit different towns, they seek answers. They want to know what the shadow doom is, why Bart is the only survivor from his town, and why he doesn’t remember the event, his mother, or pretty much anything at all from his childhood.
Along the way, there’s plenty of danger including bad weather, carnivorous plants, mysterious tunnels, and a short-lived attack of the creature shown on the cover (which is not actually, as far as I can tell, nearly that large).
Voorloper is written in the first person, which I thought was effective and well-done, especially with L.J Ganser’s performance in the audio version. I liked his interpretation of Bart.
Voorloper is not one of Norton’s most exciting tales, but it contains some hints about the Forerunners, the ancient alien civilization (featured in many of Norton’s books) which disappeared after leaving its artifacts across known space. This is the most interesting aspect of Voorloper and makes it worth reading for Norton fans who are interested in learning more about the Forerunners.