Iron Cage

~ A Novel by Andre Norton



Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of 1974 HC ~

Thousands of years in the future, a simple tribe of intelligent animals wanders the earth with a young boy, Jony, in their care, until the landing of a spaceship shatters their peaceful lives. Using his wits against sophisticated weapons, Jony defends the People - the gentle tribe of animals - and faces the conflict of his allegiance to his protectors and his need to be among his own kind. With ironic understatement, the author points out the foolish and even dangerous distinctions we draw between humans and animals. 


Write-up from the back of the ACE paperback edition ~

The people had saved and raised the 3 children after they were abandoned on the frontier planet. The people, an intelligent race of animals, adopted them into the warm safety of their primitive but happy lives despite their ingrained hatred of humans…. And then the Terran scoutship landed forcing Jony, his brother and sister into the middle of a conflict between their own race, who held their instinctive allegiance, and the People, the only family they ever had.


Write-up from the UK paperback edition ~

Across the sky a burst of vivid fire. What--? He was as certain as if he had witnessed the planeting. That had been a sky ship! And it was going to land!
The only human beings on the planet, Jony and the young twins face an awful choice when the men land. For, ever since Jony and his pregnant mother escaped from the alien Big One’s spaceship laboratory, they have been protected and cared for by the large and gentle, wise creatures they call the People. Can Jony, knowing how he and his mother were used as experimental animals by the Big Ones, stand by and allow the People to suffer the same fate at the hands of his own race?
“One of this top S.F. writer’s best” – The Good Book Guide 


Write-up from the back of the ROC paperback edition ~

Will the Kingdoms of Life ever live together in peace?
Jony had never known the Outside. Snatched from his family by an alien race, subjected to experiments and mind control on a strange planet, the boy’s world had always been the cage, which held him prisoner. It is only when he comes to live with the People, a gentle tribe of intelligent animals that Jony first comes to know feelings of security, camaraderie, and love. Until the landing of a spaceship full of humans shatters their peaceful lives. But Jony uses his wits against the arrivals’ sophisticated weapons to defend his protectors - as he faces the conflict of his allegiance to the People and his attraction to his own kind. Andre Norton has written a marvelous fantasy/adventure novel that deftly points out the foolish and often dangerous distinctions we draw between man and animal. Iron Cage


Write-up from a fan ~

20 years ago, Jony and Rutee, human experimental lab animals escaped from the cages of Zhalan slavers who they call the Big Ones. They are threatened by native wildlife and saved by the People, primitive but intelligent creatures that we might call animals. Rutee gives birth to twins Geogee and Maba and they join a Clan of the People. Rutee dies 10 years later. One day Jony discovers that the Humans were colonists who had also enslaved the People and used them for experiments. Jony's relationship with the People goes sour. A little later a spaceship of humans came and catch Geogee and Maba and some of the People upon whom the start experimenting. Jony sets out to free the children and the People and stop the ship people from bringing more humans to the planet. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: Sept. 1st, 1974
The People are the umpteenth race of highly evolved (dog/cat/bear-like) animals to populate Norton's fictional planets, and when Jony, of human stock himself, realizes that his friends are about to be captured and exploited by the inhabitants of a visiting starship (also human) he fights to defend them. Jony himself started life as a caged specimen in the laboratories of a superhuman race he knew only as the Big Ones, and -- lest anyone miss the point -- Norton begins and closes with a flashback to a mistreated mother cat on earth, suggesting that man's cruelty to the animal world will trigger cosmic revenge in the form of slavery to another order of Big Ones. Jony's defense of his adopted kin is accomplished with a whole range of weapons from the aliens' own stun guns and lasers to his special ESP powers, and the primitive, communal culture is depicted in careful detail. The premise is hardly new, especially to loyal Norton fans; however, in contrast to her other exotic future worlds, this latest presents a bleaker and more chilling prospect. 


Review by Publishers Weekly - December 12, 1974
In this slightly precious story, set a thousand years in the future, the author attempts to stress an obvious yet nonetheless valid moral. The story is a fantasy about one species being imprisoned and exploited by another. Jony, the young hero who liberates the downtrodden, is wise and a realer against injustice. The parallel with animals in our present world is pointed out in a mini saga at the beginning and end as we learn of a pregnant cat dumped in a trash heap by departing vacationers.


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

1974 in Booklist, September 15
1974 by K. Litsinger in Library Journal, September 15
1974 by Charles N. Brown in Locus #166, October 23
1975 by J. Goldfrank in Son of WSFA Journal #175/176 (fnz), January
1975 by S. Columa in Best Sellers, February
1975 by P. Heins in Horn Book, February
1975 in Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March
1975 by Sarah Hayes in Times Literary Supplement, September 19
1975 by Lynne Holdom in Science Fiction Review #15 (fnz), November
1976 by S. Crawford in Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, April
1976 by J. Rosenbaum in Science Fiction Review Monthly #14 (fnz), April
1977 by C. Doyle in Luna Monthly #67, Spring
2018 by Howell Wilson
2021 by Judith Tarr

See Also; Review by Fred Patten


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1974) Published by Viking, HC, 0-670-40151-X, LCCN 74006310, $6.95, 188pg ~ cover by Bruce Waldman {Black Cloth Boards, # 0974 on Front Flap, Code “1 2 3 4 5 78 77 76 75 74”}
  • (1974) Published by SFBC, HC, # 6360, $1.95, 187pg ~ cover by Bruce Waldman {Cream Paper Boards, # 6360 on Rear of Dust jacket}
  • (1974) Published by ACE, PB, 0-441-37290-2, $1.50, 288pg - #37291-0 1980 $1.95 288pg 2nd print - #37292-9 1981 $2.25 288pg 5th print (reprinted in 1982) ~ #37294-5 1986 $2.75 288pg 7th print - covers by Charles Mikolaycak (still trying to identify 3rd & 4th print)
  • (1975) Published by Kestrel Books, HC, 0-722-65117-1, £2.95, 288pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by unknown ~ {Red Paper Boards}
  • (1987) Published by Puffin, PB, 0-140-32108-X, £2.50, 288pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by Peter Andrew Jones
  • (1992) Published by ROC, PB, 0-451-45193-7, $4.50, 288pg ~ cover by Tom Canty
  • The Iron Breed (2012) Published by BAEN, PB, 1-451-63858-2, $12.00, 612pg ~ cover by Stephen Hickman ~ Omnibus containing Iron Cage (1974) & Breed to Come (1972)


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1997) Published in Paris, France; by R. Laffont, PB, OCLC: 77464512, 237pg ~ translation by Iawa Tate ~ cover by Jacques Tardi ~ French title La planète des ours [Planet of bears]
  • (1994) Published in Poznań, Poland; by Rebis, 83-712-0133-8, 251pg ~ translation by Ewa Jasieńska ~ cover by Alan Daniels ~ Polish title Żelazna klatka [The Iron Cage]


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (1992) Published in Katerinburg, by Victory, 5-879-41001-6, HC, 448pg ~ Cover and illustrations by A. Kazantsev ~ Russian title Луна трех колец [Moon of three rings]


    • "Moon of Three Rings" as "The Moon of the Three Rings" ~ pp. 3-182
    • "Iron Cage" ~ pp. 183-348
    • "Yurth Burden" as "The Burden of the Yurts" ~ pp. 349-447


  • (1997) Published in Tallin, by Melor and Moscow, by Symbolism, 5-870-05043-X, HC, 440pg ~ Russian title Пылающая Вселенная [Burning Universe]


    • "Moon of Three Rings" as "The Burning Universe" ~ translation by S. Ryzhov, pp. 3-192
    • "Iron Cage" as "Cell" ~ translation by S. Ryzhov, pp. 193-368
    • "Yurth Burden" as "Last Chance" ~ translation by S. Ryzhov, pp. 369-478


  • (2003) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-03009-3, HC, 384pg ~ cover by P. Turner ~ Russian title Железная клетка [Iron Cage]


    • "Iron Cage" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 5-188
    • "Perilous Dreams" as "Dangerous dreams" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 189-379
      • "Toys of Tamisan" as "Toys Tamizan"
      • "Ship of Mist" as "A ship in the fog"
      • "Get Out of My Dream"
      • "Nightmare"

View the Original contract

View the 1975 ACE contract




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