Daybreak 2250 A.D. (aka Star Man’s Son) is one of the first books I read by Andre Norton. I first read it when I was fifth grade and for some reason, it was in the adult section of the Library. (The novel actually has a “young adult” feel to it, and one of the hard back editions actually has illustrations.) After re-reading it, I found that it had aged very well, even with the “post-apocalyptic neo-barb syntax,” that makes everyone sound like movie-western Indians type “eloquent.” The general message is the importance of cooperation between groups of people and not judging people by how they look. (There is also some commentary about race, presented in a very subtle fashion.)
Chapter One: A Thief by Night
Our Hero is one Fors of the Puma Clan of a tribe of neo-barbarians of a community called “The Eyrie.” We open with him sneaking into the “Star Hall” to steal maps and other papers belonging to his deceased father. Fors father was a Star Man, an explorer and scout for the community, and he has always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, Fors has three very large problems standing between him and becoming a Star Man himself.
1. His mother came from another tribe. A tribe that is considered to be somewhat “tainted.” This would be bad enough by itself if not for point two.
2. He is a mutant. Our hero’s only visible mutation is his extremely white hair. He also has enhanced senses. (Interesting note: In this community, dark hair seems to be favored over lighter hair. He even states that his white hair is the absolute “worst” feature of his mutation.)
3. Due to points one and two, he has been repeatedly passed over for selection as a Star Man apprentice. He has decided on this escapade because this is the last year he could hope to be chosen as an apprentice. (Interesting note: Up to now, he has mostly just waited to be chosen during one of the tribe’s periodic meetings. It seems as if he has mostly been riding on hope and expectation and has not actually asked to be considered. It isn’t really stated why he hasn’t asked, though if he’s been dealing with suspicion and prejudice most of his life, he might be reluctant to put himself forward.)
This theft is in part a desperate plan to prove he is worthy of becoming a Star Man. He takes the papers and sneaks off with his companion animal, a large cougar-sized Siamese cat named Lura. He heads off into the woods, hoping to find the ruins of a city that is not contaminated by radiation. We get some exposition here, about the community and its history. We also get one of the recurring taglines for the novel which renders the Eyrie community somewhat aracial. (The tagline states that the community could not say for certain if they were of the same race that built the cities. Considering this was written in 1952, this is a very interesting statement. Norton is deliberately creating a situation where the default is not white.)
We learn that the Eyrie community does not have dogs. Apparently, they were all wiped out by radiation sickness. For hunting and general companionship they use cats like Lura, who is descended from domestic cats that became bigger and slightly smarter than ordinary cats as a result of the same “plague” that wiped out the dogs.
While hunting, Fors comes across the tracks of a “Beast Thing,” a mutated human who is one of the major reasons why the Eyrie community really, really hates mutants. (Though since “Beast Things” breed true and have similar physiology to each other, I think you could say that they are actually speciated hominids, not mutants.) Fors is extremely spooked by this, and so is Lura. They decide to head off in the opposite direction of where the Beast Thing was heading.
Chapter Two: Into the Midst of Yesterday
Fors finds the remnants of a small town. He camps in the ruins and tries to make sense of his father’s notes before continuing on his journey. Since the notes were mostly the kind of personal offhand notes that are mostly useless to anyone besides the person writing them, this is very difficult! He is eventually able to discover that his father had found the ruins of a city to the north of the Eyrie that might not be radioactive and might contain useful supplies.
Fors and Lura do some more hunting, and have a dangerous encounter with a feral cow. He does some exploring of the little town, even though he knows that it isn’t likely he’ll find anything useful. After a while, Fors and Lura come across an ancient traffic jam. He also sees some military vehicles, including a tank. We learn that during the war that destroyed civilization that there were at least two invasions. Fors wonders what happened to the invaders as he continues on his way.
Not a lot happens in this chapter, except exposition, scenery description and mood setting.