Andre Norton -- Grand Mistress of science fiction -- presents a grand tapestry of the far-flung interstellar future, in which the first starships from Earth have burst out into the universe...only to run straight into the restraining grasp of the stagnant alien federation known as Central Control.
Only as interstellar mercenaries can humans go to the stars; the aliens who already dominate the galaxy allow no other recourse. But when Swordsman Third Class Kana Karr and his comrades-in-arms are betrayed and abandoned on a hostile world by their alien masters, the warriors from Earth begin a desperate but glorious march across a planet whose every sword is against them. Their actions may doom humanity's future...or lead the way to an empire of their own!
Four thousand years later, galactic civilization is collapsing, and the underfunded crew of an exploration starship is forced to set down on an uncharted planet: a mysterious, abandoned world that is achingly beautiful -- and hauntingly familiar. Ranger Sergeant Kartr, telepath and stellar Patrolman, searches with his crewmates for the source of a beacon which may mean escape for them all. What he finds is far stranger: the first clue to what may become the greatest revelation in galactic history!
The defining events of future history -- as only Andre Norton could tell them!
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Two of SFWA Grand Master Norton's earlier novels, Star Guard (1955) and Star Rangers (1953), offered here with minimal textual changes, should be just as enjoyable to the grandchildren if not great-grandchildren of the original readers. In Guard, around A.D. 4000, humans are valued by Central Control as mercenaries, but otherwise are at the bottom of the galactic hierarchy. Kana Karr, a young swordsman investigating the mysterious deaths of some of his comrades, stumbles on a conspiracy that endangers Central Control and the human race alike. Some 4,000 years later in Rangers, the Patrol cruiser Starfire makes its last landing on an unknown but habitable planet. Three of the crew, the Rangers Kartr (human), Fylh (a birdlike Trystian) and Zinga (a reptilian Zacathan), become a sort of Three Musketeers to save the natives from the ruthlessness of other humans. They succeed well enough to eventually receive a shipload of assorted refugees and discover the secret of this "unknown" planet. The language, plot and characterization are somewhat simpler than we are used to today, but the settings come alive as well as anybody's. Moreover, Norton's handling of ethical issues, particularly the uses of telepathy and relations with nonhumans, is quite complex. This is no less remarkable when one considers that she was writing in the days when telepaths were often supermen and aliens usually depicted as BEMs. (Aug.)Miller; Forecasts, May 21) and Leopard in Exile (with Rosemary Edghill; Forecasts, Mar. 26).
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