Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Story Time . . . PATHFINDER by Orson Scott Card

It started for me in high school. My hubby--then my boyfriend--was a diehard Orson Scott Card fan, and he told me, more or less, that if I didn't read Ender's Game, he may not ever speak to me again. (Okay, jokingly.) So I read it. And I loved it. So I read the rest of the Ender's series. Which I didn't love as well as Ender's Game, but which was good enough that I steadily borrowed every other book Orson Scott Card had written by that time that David owned, and between us we bought the slew of new ones he put out during our high school years.

One year for Christmas, after we were married, my gift to my honey was to buy him a copy of every title by OSC that we didn't already own. So naturally, as new books come out, we buy them. I do believe that there are more books by him on our shelves than any single other author. And for good reason. He has a great sense of humor, a great skill with writing, and imagination that makes me sit back in awe.

Pathfinder caught my hubby's eye when we were out Christmas shopping, so guess what he got for Christmas? After hearing him chuckle all through the reading of it, I decided I'd take some time out of my busy reading schedule and share in the joke.

I'm glad I did.

Pathfinder is the story of a world about to be colonized by humans . . . and of a world where humans have counted down from year 11,191, past Year Zero, and are now counting upward again. In all this time of human history, people and animals have walked the various forms the earth has taken.

And Rigg can see their paths. They hover in the air, varying in color and intensity and texture, and as he tramps through the upland woods with his Father, learning lessons in politics and astronomy and physics and everything else a trapper has no need of, Rigg uses his gift to find the animals they need to make a living. But when an accident leaves him fatherless, with one last order from him to find a sister Rigg didn't know he had, his ability to see paths becomes necessary for more than animals. It leads him to a boy about to plummet over a waterfall . . . and into the past? He has no other explanation for the man that appeared out of nowhere and disappeared as quickly, except that when Rigg focused on his path, it became him.

A quandry that matters litter when the boy falls to his death anyway, and Rigg is left to run for his life to keep from being hunted by the boy's family, who thinks him responsible. He has one friend who comes with him--Umbo, a boy with a talent as unique as his own, who was really responsible for the leap through time--and an unexpected inheritance from Father. Nineteen jewels, and a letter stating that Rigg is in fact a prince.

Not such a great thing when the royal family has been overthrown.

In a story of adventure, coming of age, and more twists and bends and redefinitions of physics and time than a brain can handle all at once, Pathfinder is one of those stories that you have to read once you start, otherwise you spend your entire day going, "But how did that happen?" until you can go back, read more, and find the answer.

In his usual fashion, Card has created characters that made me laugh and shake my head, smile in pride and nod in agreement. In other words, extraordinary talents or not, they were real. I can always count on OSC for fabulous characters. And the plot of this one . . . wow. In his note at the end, he describes Pathfinder as madness, and it is that. The beautiful, fun madness that comes hand-in-hand with genius.

Pathfinder is being marketed as a young adult novel, and as I stretched my mind to try to understand all the intricacies of the story, I had my doubts that it was properly labeled. Then I remembered that I read similar stories by him as a teen and had no issue--perhaps because I didn't know all the laws and rules that make it so hard to fathom what goes beyond them. One thing's for sure--had I read this at 16, it would have involved staying up into the wee sma's several nights in a row, and continually saying, "I'll do it later, Mom," until I'd turned the last page.

For those concerned about what their kids read, I'll say that if OSC has any place in your house, you'll find that this fits his usual standards. There are one or two mildly questionable words, a few references to bodily functions that don't bother me and are undoubtedly in the vocabulary of any teen boy anyway (not obscene, just, you know. Functions, LOL), and otherwise nothing I wouldn't want my kids to read when they're round about high school age.

My final word--if you want a gripping, amazing fantasy novel that will steal your thoughts at odd moments throughout your busy day and make you wonder what in the world these crazy kids are going to do now, then Pathfinder is a book you have to get your hands on. You'll laugh, you'll scratch your head, you'll wonder if maybe you could do some of these things if you could stretch yourself just a little more . . . but you won't regret it.


  1. Sounds intriguing. Love sci-fi!!! :O)

  2. Sounds like a good one for Ben! He loves OSC.

  3. Stephanie, I bet he'd like it. And I know you weren't totally wowed by Ender's Game, but if you attribute that to 80s writing and take into account nearly 30 years of writer-development . . . shouldn't you HAVE to read this, it being YA? ;-)