Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Andre Norton is a master. Everyone knows it. That is the reason that I decided to read this very short novel when I stumbled across it in a bag of used books. Unfortunately, I didn't really care for it much at all.
The basic premise is quite interesting - exploring the mystery surrounding various spots in the world where people disappear and are never heard from again. The Bermuda Triangle, fairy mounds in England, and in many other places, there are hundreds of stories of people vanishing and never returning; or sometimes returning years later - but where did they go? Norton explores that question by following two young people who vanish while driving down a road one sunny afternoon, when they suddenly find that they have somehow moved out of their world and into a world physically very similar to earth. But they soon find that this "other" world is also very different, and is the places where the legends and myths of unicorns, dragons, the fairy folk, and many others all come from. The world is dangerous, with aliens in flying saucers flying around capturing humans, and mysterious cities surrounded by invisible force fields, random monsters and creatures roaming the landscape and threatening the lives of anyone they come across.
As Nick and Linda explore their surroundings they quickly realize that there is no returning back the way they came. They eventually meet up with a small group of survivors who have been living in this nightmare realm for years, and begin to learn about the world and the forces that control it. Nick is presented with a choice at one point - to become one with the land and join with the "Heralds", the inhabitants of the miraculous towering cities which are safe from the attacks of the alien ship, or to reject the land and try to survive on their own. The group is against accepting the Heralds offer, as they believe the changes it involves are somehow evil, but Nick isn't so sure. And when some members of the group learn how to use the powers of illusion they are developing, Nick and Linda decide to try to rescue some members of their party who have been kidnapped by the aliens and hope to find a way home.
Unfortunately the story drags through much of the book, information is doled out so slowly that the pace becomes unbearable. Character development is kept a minimum, although Nick fairs a little better than most in this respect since his is the main viewpoint of the story. Linda remains forever the vapid girl with her yappy dog, and the others in the group are generally even less recognizable. Then after what seems like hours of slogging through uninteresting and unimportant events and conversations, the ending is rushed through in just a few pages, but with absolutely no resolution. Nick and Linda don't find a way home, and we're left with the impression that they are planning to accept the Heralds offer and change, but the book ends before that happens so we don't even get to see what this supposedly horrible and evil change is, or if they even actually go through with it.
Another thing I didn't like is that the cover illustration shows something happening that actually never happened in the book - which is always frustrating for me personally. If the motorcycle doesn't drive up to the city in the story, then don't show it happening on the cover!
Overall I was a little disappointed, but I'm giving it three stars because the idea was good, and I liked Norton's interpretation of where our own myths and legends come from.
Have you read this book, or anything else by Andre Norton? What'd you think?