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Piper At The Gates

Forever Young Adult Presents: A review of Dark Piper by Andre Norton

Piper At The Gates

BOOK REPORT for Dark Piper by Andre Norton

Cover Story: Scifictorious
BFF Charm: Hell No
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Expository Exposition Exposits Expositorily
Bonus Factor: Cave Hideout
Younger Me Relationship Status: Summer Lovin', Happened So Fast
20-Year High School Reunion Relationship Status: Maybe If It Buys Me Enough Drinks, I'll Forget This Conversation Ever Happened

Note: Every now and then, we get the urge to revisit an old flame. It burns brightly in our memories as a pivotal book, something for which we racked up overdue library fines and stayed up late reading and rereading; after many years apart, we decide to revisit to see how the years have treated the story we treasure (spoiler alert: not always very well). Here we present our version of Facebook-stalking that high school crush with the old school book report.

Cover Story: Scifictorious

Feast your eyes on the glory of this book cover! This one happens to be the one I have, but you should definitely Google image search the book to see all the magnificent covers out there. Dinosaurs! Space ships! Lasers! Nothing I'd ever dare pull out in public!

The Deal:

Griss Lugard, grizzled veteran of the space wars, retires to the peaceful biological research planet Beltane in hopes of continuing some archaeological excavation be began in the lava fields decades earlier. Unfortunately, the chaos left in the wake of the space wars is threatening civilization, and fearing a takeover by space pirates, Lugard ushers a band of intrepid children into hiding in his lava cave fortress right before the planet is destroyed by bombs and a deadly virus. Mutant beasts range over the newly depopulated planet, and the children are the last humans left standing.

BFF Charm: Hell No

I can't EVEN believe this book was written by a woman, because the narrator, Vere Cor-something-or-other-I-can't-be-bothered-to-remember is the most patronizing, misogynistic asshole ever to breathe, on this planet or in deep space. Ok, maybe not the most, but he's certainly one of the most boring. Everything's blah blah, leave the women to cooking and tending the children, leave the men to shooting stunners and lasers and reading maps. Whatever, Vere, take your Space Ranger ass and go.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

This should come as no surprise. With all the fighting mutant dinosaurs and getting lost in ice caves and lava fields, there's not much time for hanky panky, plus Vere and Annet (the only other teenaged character) are too boring to excite even a mild, spring day's warmth in even the most excitable panties.

Talky Talk: Expository Exposition Exposits Expositorily

So the book is supposed to be a transcript of a historical record of their adventures, and it reads like the driest history book ever written. There's lots of explanation and very little action or dialogue. Even the fight-to-the-death mutant alien scenes are soporific. To wit, here's what Vere takes time to ramble about while being chased by a pterodactyl-like mutant that just slashed his shoulder open:

They must have been deeply encased in ice earlier, but something or someone had begun the process of melting them free. I could see shadows, shapes, all ice-covered. But what was directly before me was a rod projecting from a chest or container in which lay others like it. I seized upon that as my only hope of a weapon, though to swing it one-handed might be more than I could do. ... From the tip of the rod shot a coruscating ray of light. It struck one of the ice pillars. There was a hissing, a clouding of steam. Heat beat back at me; water boiled away.

And it goes on and on for two more pages. I know sci-fi and fantasy are often ... florid, so it shouldn't have been a surprise, but there were so many times I wondered if I could possibly be reading the same book I remembered from my childhood.

Bonus Factor: Cave Hideout

A cave hideout is just about the COOLEST hideout ever. I thank this book for the many hours my best friend and I spent drafting plans for digging our own underground fortress in the backyard. It's also the only thing I remembered about the book.

Casting Call:

Willem Dafoe as Griss Lugard

Just so you know, it's next to impossible to find a non-creepy picture of Willem Dafoe. Dubs true if he's smiling.

Random cardboard cutouts as everyone else

Younger Me Relationship Status: Summer Lovin', Happened So Fast

I can't even count the number of times I checked this book out from the library as a kid. In my memory, it's this action-packed book about a bunch of kids hiding out in fantastic lava caves and fighting scary, mutant dinosaur-aliens with laser guns, relying on their wits and knowledge of wilderness survival to make it from day to day. Griss Lugard, the space warrior hero, leading the children to victory against the reptilian beasts! A harsh commentary on mankind meddling with nature, creating intelligent mutants out to destroy us! Kind of like Dune lite.

20-Year High School Reunion Relationship Status: Maybe If It Buys Me Enough Drinks, I'll Forget This Conversation Ever Happened

I was more excited than Romy White meeting Billy Christiansen again when I met up with this book at our high school reunion. I dreamed of bringing it home again after more than 20 years, and I nervously approached it at the bar. But then things turned nasty. It has totally lost its looks, for one, and it would NOT stop droning on about how successful it was as a used-car salesman in Dubuque. Then I realized it could totally not hold its liquor, and it had some vulgar and insulting suggestions for how we could spend the evening. I invented a lame excuse and left it standing by the door waiting for me, then ran off to drown the memory of its grabby touch with another gin and tonic.

Meghan Miller's photo About the Author: Meghan is an erstwhile librarian in exile from Texas and writer for Forever Young Adult. She loves books, cooking and homey things like knitting and vintage cocktails. Although she’s around books all the time, she doesn’t get to read as much as she’d like.