The Last Planet - Andre Norton Typical Norton. And make no mistake, that's a good thing.

One of the last Patrol vessels of the crumbling Galactic Empire, Starfire, crashes on an uncharted planet and the surviving crew (regular Patrolmen and the Rangers who explore new worlds) must cope with surviving on an unfamiliar world and coming to terms with the end of their civilization.

As the straight-forward, old-school, YA SF adventure at which Norton excelled, The Last Planet does a good job of entertaining the reader with a quickly paced story and a cast of interesting, if not overly memorable, characters: Kartr, a Ranger serjeant with powerful-but-untrained psionic powers; Zinga, a Zacathan Ranger; Rolth, another Ranger, a human whose people have adapted to a low-light world; Fylh, an avian Ranger; and the chief "bad guy," Joyd Cummi, a power-mad survivor from an earlier crash.

There's also a strong, salutary message about the stupidity of prejudice. The "African Americans," in this case, are aliens - aka "bemmys" (Bug Eyed Monsters) - who are second-class citizens of the empire. In order to survive, everyone has to and do learn to cooperate and appreciate one another as individuals.

Despite its racially progressive tone, there is a depressing male chauvinist aura. Ms. Norton is usually pretty good about this sort of thing - many of her characters are intelligent, capable women who don't need rescuing all the time (e.g., Jaelithe of the Witch World novels) - but this novel is pretty much a "males only" club. The only woman who gets to say much of anything is a corpswoman in what sounds like an 81st century version of the WACs, and she's immediately relegated to essentially getting all the men coffee.

Yet, despite that misfire, I would recommend this book and Norton in general. I'm not a fan of all the subjects she tackles and if you read too much of her at once, it can become repetitious, but she's a good storyteller, her tales are always uplifting and positive, and she's a good introduction to the SF/Fantasy genre for the 'tween crowd.