Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Worthing Saga

I just finished my reading of the Orson Scott Card work The Worthing Saga. I would say that this book is a brilliant, sprawling, hodgepodge, spawned from the mind of a writer struggling to learn his craft and to put his vision on the page. Yet somehow he is not yet certain what to include and what to leave behind. But this book has all of the elements - narrative, vision, character development, and attention to detail - that are the hallmarks of Card's novels. This book is, in fact, actually a collection of short stories, some of which were initially published in Card's books Capitol and Hot Sleep. The short stories were initially published over a few years as part of a serialized novel, which is likely part of the reason that they don't form a fully cohesive and crisp work. However, the storylines contained in this saga are compelling, interesting, and absorbing.

Once upon a time on the world of Capitol, a miracle drug was created that put people in statis, so that they could extend their lives almost indefinitely. However, this expensive drug divided society into the haves and the have-nots - those who lived their 100 years and died, and those who slept away the decades, skipping over the intervening years. While this drug allowed for space travel and the seeding of people about the galaxy, it nearly destroyed humanity. However, this aspect of the story, merely amounts to one arc of several. On Capitol, we meet a young man named Jason Worthing. Jason has a unique genetic marker that gives him the ability to read people's minds. However, such an ability puts Jason's life at great risk. He decides that his best option is to become a starship pilot and leave on a colony ship to a distant world. However, just as his ship reaches this new planet, it is attacked and most of the colonists in statis are lost. Those that survived can only be woken with blank minds, like fully grown babies. So Jason can only bring a few out at a time, where he can raise them to be self-sufficient. Slowly, over the span of many years, he establishes a colony on his planet. Over the course of countless generations, the colony rises up to be something beautiful at times, before its people ultimately destroy themselves.

Many thousands of years later, Jason opens his entire life up to a young scribe, so that everything that he has witnessed and every lesson that he has learned can be recorded. The tales of the people and their successes, their failures, their gifts, and their undoings, need to be told without whitewashing or altering the truth so that humanity will come to see who they are supposed to be and how quickly they can lose themselves to greed, to apathy, to pride, and to conflict. This is definitely a story worth diving into.