The X Factor by Andre Norton
The X FactorWhen his space traveling father takes him to a new home, Diskan Fentress still feels out of place. He was out of place on his mother’s planet and his father’s is not better. He wants to get away to a place by himself and away from people. He’s tired of being a misfit.
He steals a spaceship and an unknown guidance to a barely discovered planet. His ship crashes on a frozen planet with no apparent sentient life. His ship sinks into a bog before he can get any supplies from it. He starts walking, looking for food and shelter. During his travels he has some strange experiences with both the plants and animals.
Diskan’s quest takes the supposed oaf and shows what he can be in the right circumstances. There are other exploration parties on the planet. There are also natives of the planet that is looking for a hero. They try reaching out to different visitors on their planet, including Diskan. He pushes them away out of fear.
Andre Norton was a giant in the science fiction and fantasy genre. She was publishing novels in the 1930’s as the science fiction genre was first coming together.
The X Factor is enjoyable enough. It’s a short novel so doesn’t get very deep. She still is able to show that what may seem to be a disability in one situation can be an asset in another. Diskan was bumbling and slow on his parents’ planets. But on this new unknown planet, he has a chance to discover his true worth. While The X Factor is predictable, Norton avoided some cliche plot points, such as with Diskan’s half brother.
The final attribute of the city on the planet is confusing. The reader can get the general idea but the concept doesn’t completely gel. This is one of those older science fiction books that helps build the genre but is nothing special on its own.