The X Factor

~ A Novel by Andre Norton

x factor


Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of the 1965 dustjacket ~

Diskan Fentress, mutant son of a space explorer, did not fit into his father’s world—or any world the boy had ever known. His outsize strength in a poorly coordinated body, which often resulted in his breaking what he wanted to mend or cherish, dismayed him and destroyed any self-confidence he might have had. Not until he stole a spaceship and crash-landed on an unknown planet did, he have a chance to prove himself and his special merits. There he found he could communicate by thought projection with the strange, furred animals native to the planet, with whom he had a special kinship. In time, led by the animals, he was able to restore an ancient culture in which at last he found himself no longer haunted by clumsy inadequacy.
This absorbing story, told by a leading author of science fiction, among whose earlier books are Night of Masks and Judgment on Janus, will hold readers enthralled as it carries them off on a voyage of remarkable adventure.


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

Diskan Fentress, mutant son of a space explorer, felt himself out of place on the luxury worlds of civilized space. It was not until he stole a spaceship and a travel key to the unexplored planet of Mimir that he first felt his latent powers to be some worth.
For Mimir was a world of strange relics, of beasts that were not beast, and of a ruined city whose shadows spoke of a higher and weirder civilization than any the galaxy had yet discovered. And it was to fall to Diskan’s lot to meet THE X FACTOR head on – and to settle a planet’s fate with his reaction.
“The author goes far beyond good plotting and peopling of fiction to construct a fantastic never-never land of new color, new sound, new motion.” – Horn Book


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

His name was Diskan Fentress. Son of one of the most famous First-in Scouts in the galaxy. But fate had dealt him a cruel blow… it had made him a mutant, and outsider among his own people. And when the embarrassment of being different became too much to bear. Fentress stole a travel tape and a spaceship. And, as an outlaw, he sped toward the uncharted planet of Mimir.
There, among the ruins of the great city of Xcothal, Diskan would discover shadows of a civilization more advanced than any in the galaxy. Here, too, he would meet the “brothers-in-fur.” Animals with an intelligence that made them seem almost human. And the others. The Alien. The Girl. The treasure seekers who would stop at nothing to gain their plunder.
Xcothal was Diskan Fentress’ destiny. The place that would allow him to use the strange power inside him… the X factor that would change his life forever.


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

The Shadow of the City.
Diskan Fentress was a mutant. And when he could no longer bear the shame of being an outsider among his own people, he stole a spaceship and jumped to an uncharted, frozen planet.
There Diskan met the alien Brothers-in-Fur, who led him to the galaxy ruins where long ago a great civilization had ruled.
But others were already there – a courageous girl, a wounded alien, and a band of outlaws determined to find the legendary treasure of Xcothal.
Diskan was the only one who could stop the outlaws – but first he had to let the Brothers-in-Fur show him the way…
“The Author goes far beyond good plotting and peopling of fiction to construct a fantastic never-never-land of new color, new sound, new motion.” The Horn Book


Write-ups from fans ~

Diskan Fentress, mutant (who doesn't have some mutation after so much space travel) son of a First-In-Scout. His mother died giving him life and his father was off-planet and declared missing and presumed dead and he was raised in the government Creche. As an adult, he was very large and clumsy, but he did possess (He kept it secret) the ability to mentally contact and sometimes control animals. He was assigned heavy labor as he could not be trusted with anything delicate. Then, his father shows up and takes him home to a new family on another planet. Diskan does not fit in on this planet. Everything is soft, pretty, and fragile; all the things that Diskan is not. His frustration drives him to steal one of his father's journey tapes and steal a ship and take off for points unknown. He crash lands on Mimir and barely escapes the ship before it sinks in a mud bog taking all his supplies. He finds an emergency cache and raids it for supplies, He stumbles across a Zacathan archaeologist and his human assistant after first meeting some telepathic native animals and getting history lessons via smoke induced dreams. The archaeological survey had been attacked by Jacks who had heard rumors of vast treasure to be found. The natives, the " Brothers-in-Fur" want Diskan to help restore their civilization to its former glory. So, he must hide the Archaeologists, fool the Jacks, save his foster brother who has shown up and run off to live with the natives, all of which is much better than going home to face piracy and theft charges. ~ PG


The misfit son of a space explorer finds his rightful place on a world where humans and animals once lived in telepathic partnership, until the human race dies out on that world. ~ SL


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: Aug. 1st, 1965
The author, one of the most imaginative in the science fiction field (Night of Masks, and Ordeal in Otherwhere, 1964, are her most recent) leads her hero Diskan Fentress on an unusual journey outward from one strange planet to another, and also inward in the realms of his subconscious. The inhabitants of Vaanchard had created a paradise of the most refined sort for all but Diskan, the misfit. Diskan was, at least in terms of this environment, a primordial type, unable to appreciate the subtlety and the polish of his surroundings. Although limited in his capacity to reason, the urge to find a world where he belonged motivated him to affect an escape to unexplored planet. Alone in an unpredictable place, he is involved in a struggle between the good forces (the small brothers-in-fur with whom he carries on a sort of extra-sensory communication) and the destructive enemy in a chase across the bleak landscape and through the dream-like corridors of the ruins of an old city. It is an offbeat book in which action is vague, even secondary, but mood and emotion are sharply evoked.


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

1966 by P. Schuyler Miller in Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, March
1967 by Robert Coulson in Yandro #174 (fnz), September
1968 by P. Schuyler Miller in Analog Science Fiction -> Science Fact, June
2015 by James Nicoll
2018 by Judith Tarr


Dedications and Acknowledgements ~

For Helen Hoover,
whose weasel-fisher people gave me the Brothers-in-Fur


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1965) Published by Harcourt Brace, HC, LCCN 65017992, $3.25, 191pg ~ Cover Richard Powers {Orange Cloth Boards}
  • (1967) Published by Gollancz, HC, 0-575-00213-1, £ 15s (180p), 192pg ~ UK printing ~ cover by Alan Breese {Dark Green Boards}
  • (1967) Published by ACE, PB, #G-646, $0.50, 158pg ~ cover and illustrated by Jack Gaughan ~ #92551 1970 $0.75 158pg - #92552 1972 $0.95 158pg - #92553 1974 $1.25 158pg - covers by unknown

Pseudo SBN 441-92551-075 on spine can be converted to ISBN 0-441-92551-0.

Ad's list #A-10, #G-630, and #G-634 (all published in 1967) as the last item on each page. A comparison of the ads in #G-646 has confirmed that this edition was published with reprinted ads from the Original #G-646 edition dated 1967.

#92551 dated by ads in the back which differ from the 1970/1972 Ace printings of the same catalog #. Ads are 24C and 25B which only appeared in very late 1972/early 1973. Possibly Ace changed only the ads from the 1970 printing and missed advancing the catalog # to 92552 [as of 2015-12-27 there is NO ace edition printing with 92552 of this or any other title]

The copyright page credits Jack Gaughan for the cover, but the style and lack of visible signature makes that questionable; interior art has Gaughan's "JG" on all pieces

#92551 and #92553 (another ace printing of the same title) are the only two 5-digit Ace publications before 1975, according to a bibliography by Helen-Jo Jakusz Hewitt published in 1975 publication "The Book of Andre Norton"

  • (1981) Published by Fawcett, PB, 0-449-24395-8, $2.25, 191pg ~ cover by Ken Barr
  • (1984) Published by Ballantine Del Rey, PB, 0-345-31557-X, $2.50, 191pg ~ cover by Laurence Schwinger


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1973) Published in Rastatt, Germany; by Pabel, OCLC: 70854714, DM2.80, 159pg ~ translated by Udo H. Schwager ~ cover by Richard Clifton-Dey ~ German title Der faktor X [The X Factor]


Russian Omnibus Editions ~

  • (2004) Published in Moscow, by Eksmo, 5-699-08497-5, HC, 448pg ~ translation by Dmitry Arseniev ~ cover by D. Burns ~ Russian title Повелитель зверей [Master of Beast] ~ Limited to 6000 copies


    • "The Beast Master" as "Lord of the Beasts" ~ translation by D. Arseniev
    • "Lord of Thunder" ~ translation by D. Arseniev
    • "The X Factor" ~ translation by D. Arseniev


  • (2016) Published in Moscow, by Eskmo, 978-5-699-90700-7, HC, 869pg ~ cover of A. Dubovik ~ Russian title Неизвестный фактор [Unknown factor] ~ Limited to 5000 copies


    • "The X Factor" as "Unknown factor" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 5-156
    • "Perilous Dreams" as "Dangerous dreams" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov, pp. 157-338
    • "Android at Arms" as "Android, to arms!" ~ pp. 339-523
    • "Dread Companion" as "Dangerous satellite" ~ translation by O. Kolesnikov & S. Sergeyev, pp. 525-723
    • "Dark Piper" as "The Moody Piper" ~ translation by D. Arseniev, pp. 725-893

View the Original contract

View the 1978 ACE contract

See Also: Timeline 1 - Andre's Universe entry for this title.

ACE Frontispieces;

x.factor.frontspiece.1     x.factor.frontspiece.2

Original drawing by Jack Gaughan 1960? from one of Andre's scrapbooks




Open menu