Reading: Daybreak 2250 A.D. by Andre Norton, Part Three

starmanssonraftlynxsmallStar Man’s Son/Daybreak has had some pretty awful covers. A few of them try to make Fors look like a TV Western Indian or make him look as if he were in his thirties instead of a teenager. (Though we do not get Fors specific age, I think he would probably be about sixteen or seventeen depending on what was considered “adult” for his culture. The reason for Fors escapade is that he is now too old get an apprenticeship and does not want to be stuck with a low status job for the rest of his life.) Many of them get Lura completely wrong, and many of them are extremely ugly and nonsensical in terms of layout and composition. (This could probably be said of most of the early sf covers. I can often guess what year/decade a book was written/printed in just from how hideous the cover is.)

 Chapter Five: The City on the Lake

 The next day after having turkey for breakfast, Fors heads down to where he saw the campfire. What he finds is the aftermath of a battle. The black guy Fors saw a while back had been attacked by Beast Things in the night. After doing a little looking around, Fors realizes that the black guy had managed to escape his attackers. He also finds a signal drum which the black guy had left behind while escaping from the Beast Things.  

 After a few more days, Fors comes across more ruins and eventually reaches the shore of huge lake. He also finds the city that his father had discovered and mentioned in his notes. This city is extremely huge and he is reasonably sure it is not radioactive. (Apparently, radioactive or “blue” cities have a visible “taint” in the air.)

Fors heads into the city, and we learn a great deal of the kind of things Star Men like Fors father look for when exploring the ruins(books, hardware, writing supplies, maps, medicine and the like). Fors does not go looking for medicine or medical supplies because he is aware that a specialist is required to do that kind of retrieval. Instead, he goes looking for “samples” of what can be found in the city to prove that he is capable of making good choices. (Except for the part where he runs off on his own into possibly dangerous territory.)

While he is camping in the city, he has a feeling that he is being watched, but he brushes off the feeling as being the result of camping in a boneyard.

 Chapter Six: Mantrap

 The next day, Fors does a little more exploring, and visits a museum. After many busy hours of grabbing everything that looks useful or interesting in sight, Fors realizes he’s going to have cache some of his loot. While he’s looking for a good place to store his stuff he passes by one of the areas he had visited previously. He sees that some marks he’d made on the floor with colored pencil have been crossed out by marks in another color: Fors is apparently not alone in the city!

After some more exploration, he finds a pit trap, and he receives more evidence that the city is inhabited. Specifically, it is inhabited people that go around making pit traps for random explorers to fall into. Fors sees that the most recent victim of the pit trap is the black guy he keeps almost running into. Because Fors is obviously a good kid without a mean bone in his body, Fors decides to rescue the guy from the pit trap even though he has to be aware that this guy is a scout from another tribe.

Fors tends to the badly injured man and they exchange introductions. The black guy’s name is Arskane and isn’t too interested in talking due to being severely injured. While he tries to make Arskane more comfortable, Fors thinks about the pit trap.

He is pretty sure that whoever made the pit trap is not around, or at least has not visited the trap recently. Since he is reasonably certain that Plains People do not make that kind of trap, and he knows that his own tribe doesn’t use the pit trap method of hunting, there has to be a third group (which Arskane is immediately disqualified from because he had fallen into the trap in the first place). Fors deduces that the only beings who would be living within the city (and building pit traps) would be the Beast Things.      

This realization freaks Fors out. We learn that Beast Things are apparently invariably hostile to ordinary humans, and are also the reason that mutants are distrusted and feared. Fors rationalizes that he might be a mutant but he is still human–Beast Things apparently are not. (It does not occur to Fors that the Beast Things might be defending their territory from normal humans with sticky fingers. This is not surprising as Fors himself is a human with sticky fingers.)

Chapter Seven: Death Plays Hide and Seek

Fors and Arskade hang out together and trade stories while Arskade recovers for his injuries. We learn that Arskade’s people are descended from the Tuskegee Airmen pilots who had attempted to fly home after at the end of the war, only to find “home” destroyed. Arskade’s ancestors fled south and ended up in a desert valley, where they ended up settling. The reason why Arskade is travelling is because he is a scout for his tribe, who are looking for a new place to settle since their community has been destroyed by a natural disaster. Unfortunately, the Plains People do not like Arskade’s tribe very much, and have been making life difficult for them.

The two become very good friends over the next few days, and talk about “the Old Ones” who built the city. Their conversation has a definite philosophical bent as they discuss the fall of civilization and whether or not the loss of scientific knowledge and technological know-how was a bad thing. (They do not come up with a satisfactory conclusion to this debate.)

Fors returns Arskade’s message drum, but convinces him not to use it yet. Fors is pretty sure that the city is still inhabited. Quite sensibly, he does not want to alert anything to their presence. Arskade realizes that Fors is probably right and agrees to wait until they’ve left the city before trying to contact his people.

Despite their caution, they are eventually discovered by the Beast Things and they have to hide.

Part Two | Part Four

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Filed under Andre Norton, apocalyptic, book, daybreak, Reading, science fiction

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