Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Book Shelf: Three Against the Witch World by Andre Norton

Before I ever picked up a novel by Andre Norton I kept hearing about how she was comparable to Ursula K Le Guin. I am a huge fan of Le Guin's work and the comparisons made me excited to try Norton.

The people who made those comparisons are liars.

This book was barely worth reading and were Norton's ideas not so fascinating I would have put the book down and never returned to it. I don't know if the problem is that she was trying out a new style or if it was just that she falls into the category of writers who have fantastic ideas but not nearly enough tallent to follow through with them. In either case I labored through this book.

One Union beard out of five.


  1. So he's a fantasy Kilgore Trout?

    As for Le Guin-a-likes, have you read Wizard-Knight by Gene Wolfe? I'd go so far to say he's a better Guin than Guin, but that's just me. It's an extraordinary book that itches all the same spots.

    Also, Stephen Donaldson's "The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever". It's similar only in that it is a severely melancholic fantasy, but I was definitely reminded of Earthsea while reading it.


    1. I've got Wolfe in my 'to read' pile but Donaldson has been more difficult to find. I suppose that I should just breakdown and buy a used copy off Amazon but it's so much more satisfying to find books in used bookstores . . .

    2. Fight the man! Buy from BookDepository.com! Their selection and prices are pretty damn close to Amazon, plus they aren't a Sinister Enterprise.

      And you should totally get around the Mr. Wolfe. A lot of his stuff is a bit obtuse but Wizard-Knight is just the most exciting thing I've read in forever.

  2. I too have heard that comparison, and I find it silly. I don't think Norton & Le Guin are anything alike beyond the superficial level of being female Fantasy/SF writers from roughly the same era.

    Personally I prefer Norton, though I did very much enjoy the Earthsea series (other than Tehanu, which was tacked on 20 years later, and I have not read anything more recent) and some of her science fiction that I have read (much of it has been out of print for most of my life. I suppose I should look again now that online resellers have mitigated that problem somewhat).

    Norton's works really should be read in order if they are part of a series. Some stand on their own pretty well, many don't. I think 3 Against was one of the latter. Try starting with "Witch World", or the 1st book of any other series that people recommend.

    And by all the gods, don't read "Quag Keep"! It really isn't that all bad--but it is a really weird hybrid--not good Norton, nor good Greyhawk. She was working from having watched a few of Gygax's gaming sessions and the fragmentary and largely incoherent notes he and his friends provided her three years before the WoG Folio edition was published in 1980. If you read it when it was first released in 78, as I did, It was a fascinating first glimpse into Gary's campaign world, but now all you're likely to see is the inconsistencies and deviations from canon.

    Another suggestion is know what you are getting into... She was a very prolific author and covered a wide variety of styles and genres including romance novels, westerns and children's books. Pick something that suits what you actually want to read.

    I strongly recommend:

    Witch World (and sequels, read them in order if possible)
    The Crossroads of Time (and sequel Quest Crosstime)
    The Beast Master (and sequels, read them in order if possible)
    Sargasso of Space (and sequels, read them in order if possible)
    The Time Traders (and sequels, read them in order if possible)
    Merlin's Mirror (for a bizarre SF version of King Arthur, that even more oddly is relatively consistent w/ the historical Arthur is he existed)

  3. So, Charles (and anyone else who cares to comment) who are your 5 favorite fiction authors of all time?

    Mine (at the moment, in no particular order, and tomorrow this list may be radically different because I'm chaotic by nature) are Robert Anton Wilson, Tom Robbins, Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien.

    1. Right now I'm all about William King, Robert Heinlein, Keith Robertson, Ursula K Le Guin, and Charles Bukowski

  4. I was pretty disappointed by "Witch world" (the first of the series) and never bothered with any of her other books. I have heard from someone I game with that most of her books are really YA ("young adult" lit) and though the genre has become increasingly popular as the average person's reading comprehension has fallen (yeah, that was uncalled for, I am snob sometimes) -- tohugh YA is not the stigma it was, in fantasy it leads to a lot of 'young person finds out they are super special' stories. So based on the lackluster "Witch world" (which did have some cool ideas but was not written in an interesting way), and the caveat that a lot of her sci-fi work is YA, I don't bother with her. Which disappoints me because she worked at my library years ago...before I was even born. But not all librarians can be Borges, it turns out. :)

    I liked Gene Wolfe's "Shadow of the torturer" but not enough to track down the est of the series. I hear it becomes increasingly allegorical. But he is a good writer. It is probably my contrarian obstinance that keeps me from reading him more...everyone loves him.


GM Toolbox: Things to Do from January 24, 2005

Shortly before I was going to run my first game back in the early months of 2005 I was sitting in the Den working on a list of things that...