Monday, August 29, 2011

Daybreak - 2250 A.D., by Andre Norton

I attended grade school in a small town that might remind you of Andy Griffith's Mayberry.  My father had a shop on Main Street, and he dropped me off at school every morning.  There were two schools, for first through fourth grade and fifth through eighth grade, both also on Main Street and within easy walking distance of my father's shop. Afternoons, I walked along the sidewalk from school to my father's shop,  being careful not to break my mother's back, and pausing at the town's single stoplight to wait for one of the town's two policemen to help me cross the street.  I'd wait for my father to finish his work, then we'd drive back home.

There was plenty to do while I waited.  Nearby, in other old storefronts, were the dime store (where I bought toys and candy), the drug store (where I bought comic books and cherry snow cones), the grocery store (where we bought cheese and crackers for lunch when I went to my father's shop on Saturdays), and the public library.

At the library I soon discovered the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, against a back wall, and spent most of my time there.  There were only a few Science Fiction books in my school library (Lester Del Rey's Attack from Atlantis and Robert Silverberg's The Time of the Great Freeze, for example).   At the public library I got to read Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, Clifford Simak, and the wonderful juveniles written by Jean and Jeff Sutton.  I also discovered Andre Norton, author of the book pictured here.

The cover of this book instantly caught my attention.  Just look at the title: Daybreak - 2250 A.D.

This was the 1960s, and things were happening fast.  Men were going into space, nuclear weapons were still a raw nightmare, society was rearranging itself.  We spoke in capital letters of The Year Two Thousand.  If all of this had happened in a decade, the next millennium (!) would be completely unrecognizable.  What amazing things might happen by 2250?  Most of the Science Fiction I'd read until then had been set in a nearer future, but this book promised to plumb Deep Time.

And what about the picture?  A man with a giant cat.  I grew up surrounded by cats, and loved them.  I had often imagined adventures with faithful cat companions:  A boy and his cat, both possessing unappreciated skills, setting out into the world, ready for anything.

Finally, the cover reminded me of the Doc Savage magazines I knew my father had read when he was young.  He grew up on a farm, poor, during the Great Depression.  He got pulps like Doc Savage from a neighbor, who read them and passed them along.  My father was a great story-teller, and I had vivid pictures of what it had been like then.  In a small way, it felt like reading this book was a step toward being more like him: Larger, more confident, more capable.

This was Andre Norton's first published novel.   Born in 1912, she had intended to become a teacher, but had had to drop out of teachers college to support her family during the Depression.  She worked for many years as a librarian, and during this time she began writing.

In the book a young man, Fors, is rejected by his people because of perceived shortcomings.  He and his hunting-cat, Lura, set out across a post-apocalyptic world to prove their worth.  Along the way, they unearth treasures from the distant past.


No comments:

Post a Comment