Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
I know what you’re thinking.
“Emmy, Ender’s Game was one of my favorite books!”
It’s one of mine too, so I feel your pain. But trust me, this isn’t a book you’re going to want to reread. (Except when you get confused later.) Orson’s attempts to draw out The Mystery (i.e. time travel) AS LONG AS POSSIBLE gets SUPER ANNOYING.
But I think you’re supposed to be confused. Or I hope you are. Because I’m still confused.
Pathfinder is the beginning of Orson’s newest Serpent World series for YA readers. Though the summary of this first book reads like one for a fantasy novel, the story stays true to the author’s sci fi leanings.
I felt like half of this book was a quest to confuse the reader, and the rest of it was the character plot. So as much as I really hated the time travel confusion, I adore the fact there is time travel–because the plot it creates is totally brilliant.
The skeleton of the plot is simple: Rigg can see the paths of wherever a living being has walked. While dying his father tells Rigg he has to find his mother, who he’d always thought was dead. On this epic quest Rigg discovers through a series of accidents that he not only sees paths but can change the past. [Feel free to insert an absurd quantity of time travel debates between characters here.]
Because I abhor spoilers, let’s just settle by saying that growing up in the up river area makes Rigg a little socially stunted in the real world. But don’t take that to mean his education was lacking. He doesn’t know history, but he can debate any point from either side; he can speak many languages, but he doesn’t know any colloquialisms. Basically everyone Rigg meets thinks he’s stupid, until he opens his mouth and blows their mind.
Unsurprisingly Orson’s world is built with a very interesting back story. Actually, there are two:
1. is played out in the beginning of each chapter by the astronaut captaining a space ship to a new earth colony
2. is about the political coup that changed the Walled country Rigg lives in, but happened before he was born.
Rigg gets pulled into this political upheaval rather late in the story during his quest to find his mother. I really hope we get more into this political aspect during the next book. Conspiracies are always a fun read.
But we really aren’t supposed to get the connection with the astronaut until the very end, but hints are dropped throughout the book and odds are the reader could figure it out.
The characters are probably my favorite part of the whole book. They start out as the classic stock characters of any adventure quest, but Orson does a really great job of letting them grow together and individually. In the astronaut aspect of the story we get a lot of discussion of the human condition, which you then see played out by the characters, making an excellent and believable parallel to the plot.
And that’s why I think you’re supposed to be confused. Because Rigg is confused too. This way everyone’s confused together.
The only thing really cemented in this installment of the series is that the past can be changed, the characters are awesome, and that even though Rigg is only 13 he’s probably going to have to save the world. (Because there isn’t any chance of Orson writing a book where the main character doesn’t save the world, let’s be honest.) Everything else? Totally up in the air. For that we have to wait for the next book.
Ruins comes out March 6th, 2012. While I’ll probably read it, odds are I’ll just fight someone for the library’s copy.
Have you read it? What did you think? Agree or disagree with my review?