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She was born Alice Mary Norton in 1912 and legally changed it to Andre Alice Norton in 1934, writing under the male name of Andre Norton. The reason was that her books were intended for young boys and it was believed they would sell better if “written” by a man. As much as I hate to admit it now, in my callow youth, I probably wouldn’t have read any of her books if I’d known a woman wrote them.

She primarily wrote science fiction and fantasy, with an occasional historical thrown in, some three hundred plus novels. Recurring themes were bonding between humans and animals, tribal societies, and the outdoors, whether on Earth or some exotic planet deep in space.

Her best known works are probably the Witch World titles, some thirty plus. They were okay, but not my favorites.  A great many people believe them her best work.

I first read Daybreak-2250 A.D. when I was barely a teenager. It was published in 1952 and has also appeared under the title Star Man’s Son. Though I own copies of both, I much prefer the former. It was among the earliest science fiction I read. Not the first. That’s reserved for Tunnel In the Sky by Heinlein. But it was shortly after that one. I was probably twelve or thirteen.

Some believe it was the first fiction to deal with a post-nuclear holocaust world, but there is no reliable evidence to prove that.

Fors was of The Puma clan, of the People of the Eyrie in the Smoking Mountains. The son of a Star Man, it was his dream to be one himself. His father had been killed years ago in a battle with the Beast-things. The Star Men were the explorers of the clans, the ones who traveled the far lands looking for caches of the lost knowledge. Lost because the Old Ones had thoughtlessly used nuclear weapons to nearly destroy the world. They looked for the cities that hadn’t been destroyed or looted.

Now Fors would never be a Star Man. He had just been turned down for the fifth year in a row and by next year he would be to old to be considered. You see, he had a problem. His mother had been a woman of the plainsmen, those nomadic, horse riders, not of the Eyrie. He had a strain of mutant in him. Silver hair, better eyesight, night and day, and better hearing than anyone else in the tribe. People didn’t trust him. Now he was fated to spend his the rest of his life at the sufferance of  his clan.

Angered, he breaks into the Star Man’s building to retrieve his father’s pouch and leaves the Eyrie to find the “lost” city his father had been on the hunt for when he died. With him is Lura, another result of mutation from the nuclear bombs. Lura is a giant hunting cat who’d bonded with Fors as a kitten. They even have a limited  telepathic connection. Lura is, essentially, a Siamese cat the size of a mountain lion.

All Fors has to go on is a scrap of map with a city by a large body of water. While hunting, he has to avoid the “blue” cities, unsafe from radiation. They glow at night.

In his wanderings, he makes a new friend, rescuing Arskane caught in a vicious trap of sharpened spikes in a pit set by the beast-things, those vicious city dwellers that may have once been human. Arskane’s ancestors were flyers who landed their planes in a southern valley after that long ago war and melded with the people there, settling in and becoming farmers and sheepherders.

An earthquake has opened up a volcano and driven them from their valley to hunt for a new home. There have already been clashes with the plainspeople.

Their bond grows as they battle first the beast-things, then the plainspeople, captures, escapes, fleeing across the deadly Blow-up lands, nursing each other back to health. Their mission now is to reunite all bands of humans before they repeat the Old Ones’ mistakes and leave the world to the beast-things. For they are now, for the first time in two hundred years, emerging from the city ruins to engage humans on the open plains. Something has them working together.

This is one of my favorite novels and rereading it for the first time in a few years to refresh my memory, it carried me back to that long ago youth.

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