Friday, September 5, 2014

The Memory of Earth

The first book in Orson Scott Card's Homecoming Saga is entitled The Memory of Earth. It tells the story of a colony 10's of millions of years old that was settled on the planet Harmony after humanity had destroyed itself on Earth. While Earth's human civilization lasted some 8000 years before it did itself in, life on Harmony has thrived due to intelligent design. A network of artificial intelligence satellites was put in place above the planet to curb human thought away from excessive aggressiveness. The system worked in concert with the genetic manipulation of the inhabitants. Over the millenia, the controlling "Oversoul" fell to the level of dismissible myth or arcane object of worship. The Oversoul had operated well past its design lifetime, and slowly its performance began to falter. Without sufficient control over the population, issues arose and some individuals began to rise up in power and to develop technology to oppress those around them. The Oversoul realized in order to keep the people of Harmony safe from themselves that it needed to connect closely with certain individuals on Harmony who could help to correct the system problems.

In this story we meet a rather well-to-do family and their children. Volemak is a well-respected, senior member of his clan with significant influence in the community. After receiving a vision from the legendary Oversoul of coming destruction and strife, he relates the warning to the clan council. However, the leader of the council, a power-hungry and morally derelict man, fears that Volemak will undermine his authority with his seemingly irrational ramblings. He then makes a plan to kill Volemak. Meanwhile, Volemak's 14 year old son Nafai has been singled out by the Oversoul because he is especially receptive to hearing the now weakened protector of the planet. When Nafai claims to have also heard from the Oversoul, his older brothers seek to murder him because they believe that it will further encourage their father, who seems intent on squandering their inheritance in his demented pursuit. Nafai's older brothers conspire with the clan leader to betray their father. Slowly, the family begins to understand what is at stake on Harmony and what is being asked of them.

This was a fantastic story and masterfully delivered. Online reviewers point out that this story has much in common with the story of the Mormon religion (Card is a devout Mormon), however I cannot speak to that due to my ignorance in this area. I move on now to the second part of the story, The Call of Earth. My experience with Card is that he has written several series that started strong and with great promise, but then kind of ran out of steam and fell flat before he reached the climax. Hopefully he can keep this one together. If you are a Card fan and you read this book, you will recognize several elements in this story that have commonality with his Ender series and with his later Pathfinder series.