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Voorloper by Andre Norton
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Voorloper

by Andre Norton

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Voor's world. The planet had once seemed so open and welcoming - but perhaps my kind were never meant to - I shook my head vigorously as if I could so flip away that insidious conclusion. Each and every world which my species had colonized had had one problem or another. that quality of need for mastery, which was a birth-part of us, was always so awakened into life to set us hammering some very hostile planets into earth-homes. No world was ever a paradise without any danger. In fact such might have been far worse a pitfall for my kind than the worse stone-fire-airless hell. We would only have atrophied there - become nothing.

I don't usually read YA fiction, but I picked this one up at a BookCrossing meeting. I think I read one of more Andre Norton books as a teenager, but she wrote so many books that I don't think I will ever be able to work out which ones I have read before, but I am sure that I have never read Voorloper before.

Fifty years after the colonisation of the agricultural planet of Voor, settlements in the north start to be wiped out by the mysterious Shadow Death, leaving everyone dead except for a few small children, all second generation settlers. When Mungo Town was destroyed, the only survivor was a five-year-old boy called Bart, who was left with no memories of what had happened, His father Mac also survived because he was away from home when the Shadow Death struck, and after the tragedy Mac and Bart became voorlopers, nomadic traders whose goods are carried in covered wagons pulled by gars (draught animals native to Voor, similar to yaks but with three horns). For near ten years of my life I had known Witol, yet never had he given me this salute. We had often speculated, my father and I, as to the intelligence of the gars - now I believed I had proof that they were indeed more than just the bearers of burdens which off-worlders classed them as being.

The northern lands are now mostly deserted, but there are a few mining settlements, protected by force fields and Mac and Bart are the only voorlopers to trade with them, which gives Mac the change to investigate the deserted holdings while he is on his way to and from the mines. A young healer called Illo, who also has an interest in the Shadow Death, asks to accompany them as they head north into the wilderness, but a violent storm changes everything.

The story has lots of black and white line illustrations, so you can see what the gars look like and get a clear picture of how the colonists dress, but Illo is always shown with loose hair, even though the book says that she wears her hair tightly tied back as all the healers do. The cover picture is very misleading; featuring a water creature that appears in one short scene. It has "a webbed and taloned paw, larger than my own hand" and it is described as clambering onto the top of the wagon, so it is obviously nowhere near as large as the Godzilla-sized monster shown on the cover, and is probably more like the size of a large salt-water crocodile.

But aside from the issues with the illustrations, and it being a YA novel, I did like it, especially the gars which are strong, reliable, loyal and intelligent. ( )
  isabelx | Apr 26, 2012 |
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The Shadow Death struck Mungo Town just after harvest, as if it had purposefully waited to give the greatest pain, the harshest of deaths.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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There is no hint in
http://www.andre-norton.org/books/ind... that Voorloper is part of a series, let alone #4 in that series.
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Voor:
A new planet, declared free and open to settlers by Survey testers; a wild but fertile land, dotted with impenetrable brush and lonely wastelands that remain unexplored where frontiersmen had hoped to carve out new lives for their families. But a Shadow stalks on Voor, striking without warning at isolated settlements, Killing nearly all, and leaving Shadow-touched and forever strange those few who are left alive.

Now an oddly-matched trio has set out to learn the secret of the Shadow Death, heading deeper into the wastelands than anyone has ever gone: an embittered wanderer and his son, and a young girl who bears a Healer's gifts. All are Shadow-touched; what they had to lose is lost already; they are free now to risk their lives in search of truth.
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A story of time travel in a future world, inhabited by heroic men and extraordinary animals.

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