Tuesday, February 10, 2015


The final volume in Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder trilogy is entitled Visitors. The story picks up shortly after the end of the second book in the series, Ruins, and involves three teenagers, Rigg, his sister Param, and their friend Umbo, who live on the Earth colony planet Garden. It turns out that when the colony ship made its leap into faster-than-light speed travel, somehow 19 identical versions of the ship were created traveling forward in time that somehow reached Garden some 12,000 years before they actually left Earth. Rigg, Param, and Umbo have known that they had some strange powers that allowed them to manipulate time. Over the course of the first two novels, they have been working to understand their powers and how to control them. In short order they come to understand their purpose. Actually, their purposes. The first is prevent the destruction of Garden by what are assumed to be Earth ships for reasons that are unknown by our timeshapers. Also, the population on Garden is being dominated by the rule of the Queen, who also happens to be Rigg and Param's mother.

I have read pretty much all of Card's novels and in my opinion, this one was by far the worst. This book is an awkward, boring clunker from its first page to its last (which was page 598). Card spends most of the book trying to develop his time-traveling/time-shaping science in excruciating detail instead of telling a story or developing his characters. When he isn't droning on about that, the lead characters are endlessly debating the morality of their powers. The frustrating part for me is that whenever he bothered to focus on story elements, he quickly skipped over major developments to return to his science development or his moral debating. When the characters began making copies of themselves, his choice of which character to focus on was completely arbitrary. He introduced a number of story elements that he ultimately never developed fully or came back to. This book was what we in the book review business call a "hot mess". After I finished my reading and poked about online for the opinions of other reviewers, my feelings were reflected in countless other reviewers. The point is that my opinions on this book are definitely not an outlier.

I have noticed that the one repeating Card trademark is that he starts series quite strongly but then has no idea how to bring things to conclusion. In every series of his that I have read, what starts with such promise, somehow fizzles before he brings it to its terminus. I can point to specific examples of his Ender's series, his Tales of Alvin Maker series, his Homecoming series, and now, his Pathfinders series.