Dark Piper

~ A Novel by Andre Norton


Synopsis ~

Write-up from an old Amazon.com posting ~

The planet Beltane had been unscathed by the all-encompassing war of the four Sectors when Vere Collis and his friends, exploring caves underground, were trapped by powerful explosions on the surface. Their leader was killed, but the group wandered for days underground to find a way to the surface. They emerged to find that they were the last human survivors on Beltane. Only strange and deadly mutant creatures now roamed the surface.


Write-up from the front flap of the 1968 dustjacket ~

Returning home after ten years, Griss Lugard found Beltane relatively untouched by the annihilating war of the Four Sectors, her inhabitants still immersed in the biological researches on mutation for which the planet had been designated. The destruction of the other worlds in the Confederation meant little to them, nor would they listen to Lugard’s warnings of danger from the lawless elements roaming the chaotic oft-world.
Only Vere Collis and his nine young friends believed in Lugard and, drawn by his magnetism and his promises of exploring unknown desert caves, were safe underground when a series of explosions rocked Beltane, killing Lugard and sealing them in. In the days that followed, the small group battled fear and despair, as well as enemies more tangible, until they won their way to the surface, there to receive a shattering blow: all other human inhabitants on Beltane had perished. Only strange and possibly hostile mutant creatures remained.
Rich in adventure and excitement, Dark Piper once more displays the superlative imagination and narrative skill that have put Andre Norton among the top writers of science fiction.


Write-up from the back of the 1960's ACE paperback edition ~ 

“Andre Norton’s books of science fiction have as much appeal for adults as for juveniles. This one is vintage Norton.
“Unlike many science fiction tales, in this one the reader will feel involvement with the characters and really care what happens to them. Lost children trying to find their way out of caves of darkness, the desolation of places on their world whose inhabitants have been killed by strangers from space, mutants who have become nearly men – it is all exciting and absorbing reading.
“The Author is a master at sustained suspense.” – Washington Star


Write-up from the back of the 1970's ACE paperback edition ~

Returning to his home planet after ten years, Griss Lugard found Beltane relatively untouched by the annihilating war of the Four Sectors, her inhabitants still immersed in their experiments in mutation. Lugard's warnings of imminent danger from off-world meant nothing to them.

Only Vere Collis and his friends believed in Lugard and, drawn by his magnetism to explore unknown desert caves, they were safe underground when a series of explosions rocked Beltane, killing Lugard and sealing them in. After a fearful battle they won their way to the surface, there to receive a shattering blow: All other human inhabitants on Beltane had perished - and only strange and possibly hostile mutant creatures awaited them.


Write-up from the back of Fawcett paperback edition ~

The ten-planet war has ended, and Griss Lugard had come home to Beltane, the biological-experimental station in deep, deep, space. He had warned the council of the dangers of peace. The war had destroyed worlds beyond imagining, and the refugees were sure to come, unerring in their determination to have a new home at any price.

But Griss's warnings had gone unheeded. Now, deep in an uncharted region of this planet's untamed surface, a small band of survivors must face the dangers of mutant monsters running wild on an empty world gone mad...


Write-up from the back of Ballantine Del Rey paperback edition ~

Determined to find new homes, desperate refugees of a long interplanetary war flocked to Beltane, weapons ready to back up their pleas for asylum. So veteran Griss Lugard and young Vere Collis, realizing that war was about to come to Beltane, led a group of children deep into a labyrinth of caves where they hoped to wait out the fight.

But a series of accidents left then trapped and lost. Vere would have to lead the children to safety on a planet that would never be the same again. Alone they were forced to fight for survival against hordes of mutant monsters...


Write-ups from fans ~

A soldier in a Galactic war is invalided home to warn his planet of danger from lawless elements flourishing during the destruction of galactic civilization.  Planet's inhabitants, scientists and pacifists all, refuse to listen to him and open the world to a spaceship claiming to be refugees from the war.  The soldier manages to save most of the children by taking them on an exploration of some of the old underground ways constructed by the former military expedition--ways which connect up to a maze of caves formed by lava tubes.  He gets killed by a rock slide in the caverns leaving the oldest boy as leader of the small band.  Eventually they come out above ground and find that many of the lab animals that the scientists had been experimenting on have developed intelligence and are of no mind to return to their status as lab animals.  Eventually the children and the animals come to a mutual tolerance of each other with the children maintaining the agricultural machinery and sharing the harvest with the animals. ~ SL


Darkness abounds. Ten years of interplanetary war have ended and Griss Lugard goes home to Beltane. Ironically, this planet named after a Gaelic fertility and protection festival has been used as an experimental mutation laboratory for the past 100 years. The planet has been drained of manpower by the war and Lugard contacts the ruling council, warning them about political refugees who will stop at nothing to take what they want. The council lets one ship land and two more are on the way. Griss leads a small group of eight "Rovers" (similar to a co-ed scout troop ranging in age from 6-20). Into some secret passages to escape what he fears is going to happen. Just before they reach the hidden base, Griss, the titular "piper" of the story is killed in a rock slide. They stay underground a while and emerge to find all of the people either dead or dying from a deadly virus. On top of this they have to face many mutated animals with human-level intelligence. Can a colony of Eight humans survive in this hostile environment? ~ PG


The good news for the poor doomed bastards on the planet Beltane in 1968’s Dark Piper is that the great interstellar war is finally over. Even better, while the world lost many of its young men to the draft, Beltane itself is such a backwater that neither side saw fit to scorch the place.
The bad news is that the war didn’t so much stop as grind to a halt after all the combatant polities suddenly collapsed. A long dark age looms, perhaps even the end of mankind’s long domination of the stars. Since Beltane was a research station…. ~ JN
Read More ...


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

1969 by P. Schuyler Miller in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, January
1969 by M. Hewitt in Luna Monthly #1 (fnz), June
1969 by Gary Zachrich in The Pulp Era #73 (fnz), December
1970 by Paul Walker in Science Fiction Review #39 (fnz), April
1972 by T. Pauls in WSFA Journal #72 (fnz), June/August
1974 by L. Wood in Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, April
2015 by James Nicoll, August, 14   Θ
2019 by Judith Tarr at TOR.com, July 01


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1968) Published by Harcourt Brace, HC, LCCN 68025193, $4.25, 249pg ~ cover by Richard Powers {Blue Cloth Boards, Black Spine Print, Light Blue End papers}
  • (1968) Published by ACE, PB, 0-441-13795-0, $0.60, 220pg ~ cover by Jack Gaughan - 1971 printing is same as 1st but adds in rear have 1971 code, #13796 1974 $0.95, 1975 - $1.25,
  • (1969) Published by Gollancz, HC, 0-575-00322-7, 978-0-575-00322-4, £ 21s (£1.12), 256pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by Alan Breese {Brown Paper Boards} - 2nd printing 1971
  • (1981) Published by Fawcett, PB, 0-449-24328-1, 978-0-449-24328-2, $1.95, 224pg ~ cover by Ken Barr - 2nd printing date unknown
  • (1984) Published by Ballantine Del Rey, PB, 0-345-31537-5, 978-0-345-31537-3, $2.25 US $2.75 Canadian, 221pg ~ cover by Laurence Schwinger
  • Darkness and Dawn (2005) Published by BAEN, HC, 0-743-49898-4, 978-0-743-49898-2, 528pg ~ cover by Bob Eggleton ~ Omnibus containing Dark Piper (1968) & Dread Companion (1970)


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1998) Published in Poznań, Poland; by Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 83-861-3881-5, 260pg ~ translation by Piotr Kuś (Peter Schmidt) ~ cover by Agentur Luserke ~ Polish title Mroczny muzykant [Gloomy musician]
  • (1991) Published by Book World, no ISBN, PB, 256pg ~ translation by Dmitry Arseniev ~ cover by A. Kytmanov ~ Russian title Угрюмый дудочник [Dark Piper]
  • (1992) Combined with "Catseye" and "Operation Time Search" ~ Published in Chisinau, by ADA, 5-862-14010-7, HC, 446pg ~ Russian title Кошачьим взглядом [Catseye]
  • (1992) Combined with "Catseye" and "Operation Time Search" ~ Published in Chisinau, by ADA, 5-862-14010-7, HC, 446pg ~ Russian title Научно-фантастические романы [Science Fiction Novels]
  • (1993) Combined with "Ice Crown" translation by P. Osvetimskogo and "Huon of the Horn" translation by Rybakov ~ Published in Zelenograd, by Zelenogradskaya Books and Angarsk, by Amber, 5-863-14013-5, HC, 416pg ~ "Dark Piper" translation by Dmitry Arseniev ~ Russian title Темный трубач [Dark Piper]
  • (2002) Combined with "Star Man's Son" translation by Victor Fedorov, "The Sioux Spaceman" and "Long Live Lord Kor!" both translation by Oleg Kolesnikova ~ Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-01308-3, HC, 480pg ~ "Dark Piper" translation by Oleg Kolesnikova ~ cover by ?, illustrations by A. Lurie ~ Russian title Сын звездного человека [Star Man's Son]


View the Original contract

View the 1978 ACE contract