Monday, May 17, 2010


When I started reading this, I thought I finally came across a Card novel that didn't recycle the same ideas. This was one of his first novels, so maybe he was still feeling around in original territory. The novel is set on a 'prison' planet, where leaders of an 'intellectual revolution' were exiled. Each member of the group has now (a few thousand years later) spawned a clan that shares some special "power". The planet has no easily accessible supplies of iron. However, every clan does have a device that allows them to send something of value back to the main "empire" in return for the precious metal. The goal of each group is to get enough metal to build a space ship to return to earth. (And on the side fashion enough weapons to defeat the enemies.)

The main character is a decedent of a geneticist. There society has developed the ability to rapidly heal themselves. This sometimes mutates to "radical regeneration" where extra body parts are produced. People with extra parts are treated as animals, with their extra parts harvested for sale to the "empire". The hero, while a male heir to the thrown, has started growing female body parts and finds himself exiled. In this exile he gets to know many of the others and eventually destroys a plot by one group to take over the planet, and in doing so, also destroys the devices that connect them to the empire.

This was all quite intriguing until the hero stumbles across a group of geologists and their "living rock". Hmmm... This seems a lot like the living rock in Stonefather or the Alvin Maker series. And it also started to stretch the "science" explanation to the extremes. Oh well.

Other "powers" were a little more in the science fiction vein. One group was able to alter the flow of time. Another group attempted to have a pure cash-free egalitarian society. (However, things were generally only "freely given" if something else was "freely given" in return.) Another group (the decedents of politicians) were able to make people believe anything - even allowing people to see a total stranger as their own son.

In his running, the hero is attacked, and eventually manages to spawn a duplicate of himself (that he attempts to kill). This duplicate however, ends up being used as a pawn of the politicians to ransack the planet. Luckily, the hero uses all the powers he has learned to destroy all the members of the political class, and finally, at the end, befriends his "spawn", and ends up living happily-ever-after with the girl of his dreams.

The first-person narrative keeps this novel moving more quickly than Card's other novels. The characters, while starting to show some of Card's "superman" behavior, are still different enough to keep them interesting. And, it is loaded with all sorts of interesting "sci-fi" that keeps the novel interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment