Sunday, January 9, 2011

YA Science Fiction/Fantasy - Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

Pathfinder is over 600 pages long, so it's kind of hard to write a good synopsis, but here it goes: The book begins with the story of Rigg, a thirteen-year-old boy in a pre-industrial world who lives with his father in the wilderness of the mountains. They make their living by trapping animals and selling their furs, but Rigg's father is well-educated, and he gives Rigg an excellent education as well, though Rigg doesn't see how he'll ever need most of the stuff he learns. All he needs to know is how to track and trap animals - which is easy for him, since he can see the paths of every living thing, past and present, except his father. But then Father dies in an accident, and Rigg is left alone, with a mission to find a sister who he's never heard about. Before he can even get started on his journey, though, he discovers a new thing he can do with his power to see paths, and he meets up with his old friend, Umbo, who, being kicked out of his home, joins Rigg.

They embark on a months-long journey to the capital city of their Wallfold, Aressa Sessamo. During this journey, they discover that Umbo can speed up people's perspectives of time, and he can also travel through time - with the help of Rigg. After a narrow escape with a bunch of rivermen, the two are rescued by Loaf, a former soldier who runs a tavern with his wife, Leaky. Loaf accompanies Rigg and Umbo to the city of O as protection (after all, they're thirteen), and the story continues from there, with lots of action, some political intrigue, occasional slightly off-color humor, and rather confusing time paradoxes.

Meanwhile, the beginning of each chapter kicks off with the story of Ram. He's the human commander on a spaceship with a huge group of (sleeping) colonists, aiming for a new planet lightyears away so the human race can restart after the disasters they've caused on Earth. When the ship makes a jump into time to speed up the journey, an interesting thing happens - the ship duplicates itself. Nineteen times. 12,000 years in the past. So Ram is charged with the decision of what to do with the ships, especially since the expected help and extra supplies from Earth won't come for thousands of years. But how do Ram's and Rigg's stories go together?

Initially, I was really confused by Pathfinder. Rigg is in a fantasy world, Ram is in a science fiction world - how the heck are these two stories supposed to match up? But they do. Eventually. About page 400, actually. Also, there were some physics and time paradox things that went over my head, but I just quit worrying about them and moved on with the story, which was really good. Despite the 600+ pages of this book, I was never bored, and I could read a 30-page chapter without realizing that much time had passed. It's really nice to be able to lose yourself in a book like that.

Card's writing was good, too. He kept the plot interesting and fast-paced all the time, and he developed the characters' personalities very well. The only other book by Card that I have read is Ender's Game, but I enjoyed Pathfinder much more. There's some violence, but not nearly as much as in Ender's Game, and the main characters were a lot more pleasant to read about because they're not so competitive and violent. I think readers can connect much more to Rigg and his friends than to Ender. The ending of Pathfinder, while it ties up most of the loose ends of the plot, sets itself up for the sequel mentioned by Card, which shall be eagerly anticipated by SusieBookworm.

Book read as an e-book on Simon and Schuster's Pulse It website. Pathfinder was published in November, 2010.

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