Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Break Book Two: Pathfinder

                I live in a house full of nerds. We’re the kids who were homeschooled for most of our childhood, who watched Magic School Bus instead of Barney, and who have frequent conversations about theoretical physics over dinner. So it was no surprise to me when my older little brother suggested this book to me.
                We’d both read Ender’s Game a few years ago, and it briefly held first place in my long list of favorite novels. So when this new title from the same author came out, I jumped at the chance to read it.
                Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card, is about a boy named Rigg who can see the past paths of every living thing in history. For years, he has used this skill to help his father hunt, but an accident soon sends Rigg alone on a mission to fulfill his father’s final request:  find his sister and mother in a faraway city.
                Like in Ender’s Game, the first few paragraphs of each chapter tell a different narrative. This plot, which we soon realize is closely related to Rigg’s story, tells of starship captain Ram Odin, who is piloting a ship meant to colonize a distant Earth-like planet.
                Rigg’s story falls into the fantasy genre, but not the kind of fantasy with dragons, sorcerers, and magical creatures. This fantasy realm isn’t as out there as most, only including the impossibilities of Rigg’s ability (and the abilities of others we meet later in the novel). Ram’s story, until it intertwines with Rigg’s, is strictly science fiction, as you’d expect from Card’s fiction.
                Pros:  Card makes really complicated pseudo-scientific concepts that are vital to the plot easy (or at least easier) to understand. And he does a phenomenal job of combining fantasy with science fiction that doesn’t seem at all contrived or cliché. The story flows well, and dialogue is especially well done.
                Cons:  It’s not Ender’s Game. It’s still a good read, but if you open the book expecting something that can compete with the excellence that is Ender’s Game, you’re going to come away disappointed. Also, the plot twists that Card included aren’t very twisty—they’re relatively predictable. The book is a bit long, too, especially if you’re expecting something that’ll keep you constantly on the edge of your seat.
                Conclusion:  Go for it; Pathfinder is a fun read.  But definitely read Ender’s Game too. It has all Pathfinder’s virtues without its shortcomings.
                Next up:  1984, by George Orwell.

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