Volume three of the Beast Master series begun with 1959’s The Beast Master and 1962’s Lord of Thunder. A fourth installment is promised. And that’s good, since this is one of the better SF series going, with Norton using stripped prose to put her stereotypes through their foredestined rounds. A mind-boggling element in her fictional background are the many casually visited planets that support organic life much like that of Earth—which, by the way, is no more, having been wiped out by the Xiks (even though the Xiks were defeated) and creating the need for new planets in the federation to be colonized and regenerated. Beast Master Hosteen Storm (homeworld: Earth) now lives on Arzor and tends his beast mutations when the Beast Master Ark arrives, its crew hoping to get some gene samples from Storm’s herds and perhaps colonize Arzor with meerkats. Aboard the Ark is Tani, a 19-year-old geneticist and rather spoiled Cheyenne/Irish orphan who dislikes Beast Masters. Storm finds that some dreadful new invader is killing frawns by day and native children at night by paralyzing them, eating them alive, and sucking their bones clean all within five minutes. Sounds a bit like army ants, someone suggests. But this killer leaves no trace on the sand beyond a stink that Storm’s big cat can follow while Storm’s eagle circles above (he controls both beasts by telepathy). When Tani has nightmares about the invisible predator, Storm determines that she’s an empathic like himself and can help track the Death-which-comes-in-the-Night.
Neat, swift, and strongly detailed. Old fans will dance and howl for more.