Friday, May 06, 2011


Pathfinder starts with two seemingly unrelated threads that eventually come together in the end. (This seems to be Card's new favorite device.) At first, there are a few subtle clues as to the relationship of the stories, however, it is not until the tail-end of the book that it finally becomes clear what had happened. (I still could see a couple possibilities for the main character's father.)

The main story takes place on a distant world with a calendar that counts backwards for 11 millenia. The people live within a "wall fold", an area surrounded by an impenetrable invisible wall that makes people crazy when they approach it. The world that the main characters inhabit is fairly advanced, but low-tech.

We meet the main character (Rigg) as he is out trapping with his father. He has some special ability to follow "paths" around. One day, he receives a special mission after his father is hit by a tree. (He later discovers this mission is to find his sister.) On his way, he encounters his childhood friend's brother doing a risky river crossing. He attempts to save him, but as he is doing it, time slows down, and an ancient man gets in his way. The kid dies, his friend blames him and he becomes a fugitive. However, people talk the mob down and eventually the friend is blamed for not watching carefully and kicked out of house.

They somehow manage to quickly resolve their differences and set out on the adventure. They happen to meet up with a burly boarding house owner who becomes their companion. They discover that Rig is a potential heir to the thrown (only there is now a 'peoples revolution' that has replaced the monarchy. (And the monarchy, a few generations earlier had been declared a matriarchy)

They run in to numerous people. Nobody comes across clearly as a friend or an enemy. (And some perceived friends turn out to be enemies and vise versa.) Rigg's sister has the ability to "slow time" and appear invisible. His friend has the ability to "quicken time" and allow people to go back in time. Together, they have an ability to trace paths back in time. If other people see them do that, they often become a source of a saint or a legend.

The time travel experience is different than typical time travel views - and quite confusion. Time travelers can go back and change events. But they have already done it. They can also go back and take things from the past into the future (and potentially the other way around.) However, time travel is space-dependent. (They end up in the same space.)

Even more confusing is the way that they suddenly develop their talents. The intermediate steps seem to be sketchy, and despite explanation their "growth" in the talents is still sketchy.

The "other" story deals with a colonization mission sent out from earth. The ship is commanded by a human along with some humanoid "expendables". The earth is in dire straits after being hit by a space object, and the colonizers are seen as the best approach for the maintenance of the human race. This ship was to go through a "time fold" in order to make it quickly to the inhabitable planet. In the process, the ship gets split in to 19 versions of itself, and travels backwards in time 11 millenia. They then cause a mass extinction event and seed the planet with earth life.

These stories come together in the end, with a "satisfying" conclusion that still leads plenty of threads open for future sequels.

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