Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Review by Ryan Lawler
Pathfinder is the first book in Orson Scott Cards Serpent World series published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. Well known in the Sci-fi world for the Ender Saga (notably Ender's Game), and the Homecoming Saga, Card seems to be branching more and more into the fantasy genre with better results each time. With Pathfinder, Card has taken a number of the more complex sci-fi elements and used them to create a quality YA fantasy story that is original, easy to understand, and fun to read.
The story centers around a young boy named Rigg who has the ability to see the paths left behind by every living creature, an ability that essentially allows him to see into the past. Growing up in the wilderness with only his father, Rigg shows he is also a gifted scholar and with the help of his father he is able to learn about science of the world and gain control of his ability. After falling victim to a fatal accident, Rigg's father tells Rigg that he must seek out his mother and sister who are in fact both alive and living the capital. As he journeys to the capital, Rigg and his companions start to realise that the world they thought they knew is not what it seems as they starts to uncover secrets about both Rigg's life and the history of the world.
Within this story there is a second story about a man named Ram, pilot of a spaceship which is using experimental space folding technology to transport a human colony from Earth to a new habitable planet 32 light years away. As is the case with Sci-fi stories that make use of experimental technology, nothing seems to go to plan for Ram but the unintended consequences appear to be a blessing in disguise. As the story progresses, Ram becomes more familiar with the experimental technology and it seems certain that he will be able to pilot the ship to its intended destination, but at what cost?
Pathfinder is a well rounded original story with solid characters and complex plot devices all set in a world that continues to grow in size as Ender, I mean Rigg *TIC*, uncovers more and more secrets. About halfway through this book stops being about Rigg and starts focusing its efforts on world building and by the of the book I was blown away by just how big, complex and intricate this world is. Because of the change in focus the plot starts to stutter due to a lack of direction, however, it all comes together for an ending that somehow manages to be satisfying despite asking more questions than it answers.
Time-travel can be very confusing and Card has taken a big risk by taking traditional time-travel elements and giving them a twist, but I think he has managed to make it work and in the process he has constructed a solid foundation to really build on in future books. While I appreciate that these books are written for the YA audience and that some of the complex plot devices can be confusing, I think Card goes a little too far as he provides an explanation for just about everything which at times felt like he just didn't trust us to come up with the right conclusion. Because of this, I feel that there is a fair bit of fat that could have either been trimmed from the story altogether, or replaced with a bit more interaction between Rigg and his father.
I am a big fan of the "story within a story" format as it allows the author to give the reader plenty of background information through the secondary story to enhance the experience of the primary story without disrupting its flow. In Pathfinder, I thought the pacing and interaction between both stories was just right with the subtle hints given by each story as helpful as they were misleading. Having thought I had figured the whole story out early on, I continued to be surprised as both stories made unexpected twists and turns right up until the last few chapters where I finally had that lightbulb moment and everything fell into place. I think this says a lot about the quality of foreshadowing in this book, but i shouldn't be surprised by this as quality foreshadowing seems to be a feature of all books by Orson Scott Card.
There seems to be a massive focus on the YA market at the moment and with books like Pathfinder, Leviathan, and The Spook's Apprentice, it is easy to see why. While the constant explanation of plot devices can be belittling at times, especially for adult readers, it does make the more complex plot devices easier to understand without too much disruption to the flow of the story. While this book works on its own, it is obvious that this book has been written with the rest of the series in mind and I am really looking forwards to seeing the direction that Card chooses to take.
Eli from UK
I absolutely loved this book. I love the way that Card explored the very concept of time, both with the different things one can do with control over time (i.e. the diverse collection of time related powers) and the way Card plays with time travel and it's rules. His attempts at humor didn't work so well and quickly became repetitive but then again nobody reads sci-fi with the expectation of comedy (except for Douglas Adams of course). Card never really explains the theoretical physics behind the "fold" that the ship makes in order to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other but there's a good chance he will in a sequel.
Will from USA
I really liked this book.
Jane from Toronto
It was a really good book. I enjoyed the book so much, I read it until I got scolded. Although, I got really confused about the whole time traveling thing. It goes like this and like that... this and like that...
Joseph from Toronto
I wanted to read this book for a school book report and I loved it. It was very confusing for me at first but I seemed to understand the story more as time passed. There were two things though that I did not like about this book. The first thing is that Orson Scott Card used the word "said" too frequently throughout this story which kind of irritated me a bit because most of this story includes a lot of the conversations between the characters. The other thing that I did not like about this story was that Orson Scott Card did a poor job describing his characters especially since the story was told from the third-person perspective. In terms of the setting, there was more description about what the setting looked like compared to the characters physical description. Otherwise, I really enjoyed reading this story and I look forward to reading the sequel, Ruins, which comes out in this fall, 2012.
Alden from Japan
DUDE! I LOVE THIS BOOK! But, seriously, I liked Ender's Game but Pathfinder seemed to catch my interest a bit more. And I am hoping Orson Scott Card writes some more books.
Ender's Game is certainly up there as one of the best sci-fi stories I've read. I think Speaker for the Dead is even better than Ender's Game, and Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson is right up there too.
Allan from Bridgend
Thanks for the review... looking forward to this... Ender's Game is possibly the best ever SCI-FI book??
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