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Breed to Come (1972)

by Andre Norton

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Furtig is one of the People (cat people), a descendant of Gammage. Gammage was physically different - his fur was sparser and his fingers longer. He also believed that the tools and knowledge left behind by the Demons (human beings) could be useful. It was he who developed metal claws that allowed the People to more effectively hunt, as well as fight against the Barkers, Tuskers, and Rattons. When Furtig fails his Trial and chance to secure a mate, he opts to leave his tribe and go to Gammage, who is rumored to somehow still be alive and seeking to unite the People and even ally with the Barkers and Tuskers against a common enemy...the Demons. The Demons disappeared or died out long ago, after killing many of the People in their madness. Could they really be returning?

I first read this when I was in the 5th grade. We'd been given an assignment to read a certain number of science fiction books, and at the time I was firmly a fantasy reader and felt that science fiction was not for me. Then I discovered that Andre Norton had written science fiction starring cats, and I changed my mind.

I don't know that I can really call this a reread. I know I read it before, but I didn't feel one bit of recognition during this "reread," to the point that I might as well have been reading it for the first time.

Norton's style was a bit stiffer than I recalled, and I didn't really settle into the story until after Furtig met Foskatt and Gammage. I enjoyed Furtig's encounters with "Demon" technology - sometimes it was easy to figure out what sort of device he was using, and sometimes I couldn't be sure. Furtig's discovery that he had slight psychic powers was a bit much, but they thankfully weren't overused.

Norton's vision of humanity in this was...not exactly flattering. We basically screwed up multiple times, and then made things worse when we tried to fix our mistakes. The overall message: technology is nice and all, but go too far and you'll kill yourself. It struck me as being both simplistic and depressing, especially considering how Norton hammered it home at the end.

The whole setup with the People, Barkers, Tuskers, and Rattons, made sapient by the mistakes that ultimately killed humanity, was interesting enough. And yeah, I can definitely understand why animal-loving 5th grade me latched onto this and Norton's other cat-focused books. However, in my reread one thing that really bothered me was how hard Norton leaned on rat stereotypes. The Barkers and Tuskers were allowed to be more complex - they could be reasoned with and potentially become allies to the People. The Rattons, on the other hand, were just plain evil, resorting to torture and horrible traps. It struck me as lazy, compared to the way the Barkers and Tuskers were depicted.

All in all, not a bad reread, but a bit more of a downer than I expected.

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Jan 2, 2020 |
I enjoyed this story immensely this week. Although Andre Norton is one of the authors that got me into science fiction, I don't remember this one from my childhood. This story is one that puts her in the top level of the great writers of the genre.

Breed to Come does what science fiction rightly is known for. The what if of the story combines with human interest to lead you to suspend disbelief and go with the wild ideas until you get to the end.

I was riveted by the story of Furtig and the people he finds in the lairs. I admire his spirit. He is not a great fighter and suffers a defeat near the beginning of the book. His defeat is accepted as a step on his journey to uncover the secrets of his world and grow as an individual.

Breed to Come is superior to many science fiction books written in the same years. There are several strong characters who carry out important tasks separately from Furtig. We care about those other characters and look forward to finding out the results of their endeavors when Furtig meets up with them.

This book is written in 3rd person, mostly from Furtig's POV. The story is told in past tense. It took me 3 days of several hours each day to finish. I recommend to all ages. I think kids as young as 8 years old would probably be OK with it. No sex and moderate violence. The ideal audience will be made up of cat lovers. I would classify this story as a futuristic post-apocalyptic adventure. Thanks, Andre Norton. ( )
  SAGibson | May 15, 2015 |
Norton's futuristic tale centers on a group of felines who have evolved into one of the planet's dominant species in the absence of humans. Where the humans went and how this evolution began is one of the book's central questions. Dogs, pigs and rats have become more advanced as well and there is conflict between each of these groups. One far-thinking leader attempts to unite the groups called Barkers, Tuskers and People in the event the "Demons" (humans) return. It is expected the Rattons will side with the Demons.
Norton's world-building is excellent, as is his characterization of each species. This complicated thought experiment also includes dramatic, suspenseful passages which elevate the story and keep the reader enthralled. Although the ending seems rushed and a little anti-climactic, it is an enjoyable read and well worth your time. ( )
  EmScape | Jun 13, 2013 |
This story was very enjoyable read. It was well written and the characters were very likable. This adventure is Andre Norton at her best. ( )
  marysneedle | May 10, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andre Nortonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gal, LaszloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Man is old enough to see himself as he really is - a mammal among mammals...He is old enough to know that in the years to come he may be crowded out like the prehistoric monsters of the past, while life breaks out in some ascendant form that is better suited to survive...
- Homer W. Smith, Kamongo
What monstrous folly, think you, ever led nature to create her one great enemy - man!
- John Charles van Dyke
With appreciation for their invaluable aid in research, my thanks to my resident people-in-fur (in order of seniority)
Su Li
and to the valiant memory of
Thai Shan
who were with us for far too short a time
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There was a light breeze, just enough to whisper through the leaves.
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It was Hia-Hang, one of the Elders of the Western tribe who spoke - "There are Ratons in the lairs, and Demons. If they have indeed returned, it is best to let them have the lairs. those of our kind saved their lives before by taking to the wilds."

Forkatt spoke for the first time. "Ony just, Elder. It was only because the Demons fought among themselves that they escaped. These Demons are neither sick nor fighting among themselves, If they come in strength, how long will it be before they hunt us again?"

A sharp growl arose among the tribes, ears flattened and tails lashed. The warriors rose, their claws ready for battle.
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