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Dark Companion

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Andre Norton

In a future where humanity has scattered itself across the stars and Earth itself is now a dimly-remembered place of legend, two worlds of near-supernatural strangeness challenge two naive but courageous heros. The planet Beltane had been unscathed by … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Andre Norton
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Baen
1 review about Dark Companion

Dark Piper and Dread Companion

  • May 9, 2010
Two of the late Andre Norton's novels "Dark Piper" and "Dread Companion" have been reissued under a single title: "Dark Companion."

"Dark Piper" was first published in 1968 and is one of the few `post Apocalypse' science fiction novels of Lifetime Grand Master of Fantasy, Andre Norton, who passed away on March 17, 2005 after a long and extremely fruitful career. Her first novel, "The Prince Commands" was published in 1934, and her last, "Three Hands for Scorpio" in 2005. Her magically detailed world-building skills and upright, against-all-odds characters will be sorely missed.

"Dark Piper" features her usual cast of likeable, self-reliant young men and women, who have to fight both inscrutable, powerful aliens and the evil mercenaries who attempted to erase all other human life on Beltane. There are hints of Norton's Forerunners, the mysterious beings who preceded humans into space, but this novel is mainly one of survival after the near-destruction of the Beltane colony.

Vere Collis, a young man from a military family, narrates in first-person the near obliteration of Beltane, a very remote Terran outpost whose human colonists were mainly scientists. As the Terran Confederation gradually disintegrates under the burden of interstellar wars, Beltane becomes more and more isolated--an easy target for mercenary soldiers who still possess the ships to travel between stars. Retired Sector-Captain Griss Lugard attempts to warn the colonists of impending danger. When this fails, he leads a group of youngsters (including the narrator, Vere Collis) deep underground before a series of explosions seals them from all contact with the outer world.

Vere and his friends must return to the surface, in spite of monsters who have adapted to life underground. That which awaits them among the silent ruins of their home is even more soul-shattering.

This is another fantastically populated universe, created by one of the most underrated fantasy/science fiction writers of our time. It is more darkly themed than most of Norton's science fiction, and will never be my favorite of her novels. However, "Dark Piper" is a must-read for fans.

"Dread Companion" begins and ends in a future where humanity had long ago reached the stars and scattered itself across thousands of planets. Terra itself is nothing but a half-remembered legend of origin.

Norton combines a theory of parallel universes with themes from folklore to create her story of a changeling who drags her brother and governess out of the twenty-fifth century AF (After Flight) and into the world of Faerie.

It's an odd amalgamation, but I think it works well because her story is anchored by the governess, Kilda and her brave attempts to rescue her charges. Almost as soon as she meets the children, Kilda realizes that the girl Bartare has some kind of unnatural hold over her younger brother, Oomark. The governess does everything she can to solve the mystery of Bartare's invisible `Dread Companion'---invisible that is, until Kilda and her charges are yanked into Faerie.

Kilda has to drink the water of Faerie before she can even see properly. The boy Oomark stays with her, but eats freely of alien fruit. When Kilda finally regains her normal vision, Oomark has begun a physical transformation into a creature of hooves and horns---a faun. Kilda must now struggle to stay human, locate a gate back to the sane world of the 25th century, keep Oomark by her side, and find Bartare who has gone to join the Dread Companion she believes to be her true mother.

"Dread Companion" was originally published in 1970, sandwiched between the Witch World novels, "Sorceress of the Witch World" (1968) and "The Crystal Gryphon" (1972), as well as many other works by this prolific author. Norton fans will discern several common elements between her excellent Witch World fantasy series and this stand-alone SF novel. Examples: there are nurturing trees that are havens from evil hound- and vulture-like creatures; and Bartare's kidnapper turns out to be a Great One of the Light---not that it matters so unhuman is She.

In "Dread Companion," you will read some of the best descriptions of Faerie ever written, even though this book is officially classified as science fiction.

Norton has written of a place that is wondrous, terrible, and truly alien.

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