Science Fiction Short Story Review: "The Gifts of the Asti" by Andre Norton
This is another in the series of “It Came from the Pulps!” where I review science fiction short stories that were originally published in the pulp magazines of mid-20th century. Many of these have become available in electronic form as free downloads, particularly from Project Gutenberg, or for a low price.
Varta, the last of the virgin Maidens of Asti, is watching her world die. The barbarians of Klem have hunted Memphir to its death and even here, in the forgotten mountain retreat of Asti, Varta can smell the stench of the fires of their destruction. It’s time to leave.
With a Lur, a reptilian creature who cannot speak but who can read her mind, she takes the replica miniature sun with its four worlds from the hooded statue of Asti and descends through the hidden door.
This is another story with an ending that is not a surprise, but has some striking imagery. Its references to destruction by detonation of an atomic bomb are unusually subtle for the times and that makes it stick out. It also seems to appeal more to young girls than young boys and that is not the norm in the literature of the time. While I liked much about it, I would not read it a second time.
Author Andre Norton was born Alice Mary Norton but added “Andre” when her agent told her that her audience, young boys, would more be more likely to read her books if they thought she was male. Unable to finish college because of the Great Depression of the 1930s, she got a job as an assistant librarian and worked for years as a librarian. She never married and died at the age of 93 of congestive heart failure.
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed and is no longer visible there or anywhere else. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion on PP.
Title: “The Gifts of Asti’” first published in Fantasy Book July 1948
Author: Andre Norton (1912-2005)
©2015 Denise Longrie
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