Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while and picked it up in November. I started reading it over the holidays and finished last week (it’s a long one). I really enjoyed this book. Card did a great job of creating a unique world and keeping me captivated for such a long book.

Pathfinder reviewRigg was raised by his father, a fur trader, and they spent most of their time in the woods where Rigg’s father gave him a unique education. When his father dies, Rigg must follow his final instructions: visit the innkeeper they sometimes stay with and get the money held there for him; then, go to find his sister in the capital city, far away.  Rigg has a secret: he can see the paths of people and animals that have moved before him, like shimmering ribbons in the landscape. His father taught Rigg to keep this ability secret, that it would frighten people; what Rigg didn’t realize is that his father was keeping other secrets from Rigg, too — secrets about Rigg’s identity, and his destiny. There’s a trailer on Card’s website (scroll down…). I haven’t watched it yet.

I loved the world created in this book, and the mystery that surrounds everything as Rigg journeys toward the capital city (and towards discovering his destiny). Card does a good job of melding together two story lines that are 11 191 years apart, and appear at first to be very, very separate stories (one a science fiction, one a fantasy), then merging them at the end of the book. Masterful.

I don’t want to tell too much about the book because I think part of the reason I found it so good was that I got to discover everything as Rigg did. I will say, though, that Rigg has a friend, Umbo, who accompanies him on his journey and also has a mystical ability: he can slow down time. Card does a great job of showing how Umbo and Rigg explore the possibilities their gifts can create together, but I think Card dwells too much on the logic and arguments between Rigg and Umbo when they are discussing the potential ramifications of their abilities. For the most part, I think it would have been more exciting to let the reader wonder about these possibilities in our own heads (what if they go back in time and can’t get back to the present? If they go back and change the past, will they be able to find themselves in the present – won’t the present have changed too?) rather than so explicitly debating the possibilities in the narrative. The book would have moved along faster without these interruptions, and could have been much shorter that way, too…. just sayin. Card may have fallen into one of the traps that many people who are used to writing for adults fall into when they write for young adults – too much explaining. That said, while I found it annoying, it didn’t actually disrupt my enjoyment of the story — I never felt annoyed and wanted to put the book down (though I confess I did read the logic arguments pretty fast… one might even say I skimmed some of those parts). My opinion here is probably coloured a little bit by my general lack of patience for philosophical debate (this is why I never got through Sophie’s World… well, that and I hate the Socratic method).

I see that this story continues in another book, Ruins, and I will definitely be looking for that (not sure if it’s out yet).

Up next I’m reading a grown up book – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. It’s been interrupted by a library book, though – I got The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff (I’ve been on hold for ages) so I need to finish that before I move away from the Victoria library!