I’ve been a big fan of Orson Scott Card ever since 23 years ago when my then-boyfriend (now husband) lent me Ender’s Game, which still stands as one of my favorite books. I went on to read the entire series and was captivated by Card’s unique plots, writing style, and in-depth characters. I haven’t read much of his work since then, until last week when I had a chance to read his latest teen/YA sci fi novel, Pathfinder. I was pleased to find that his new novel has all the characteristics I enjoyed all those years ago.
Each chapter of the book has two parts: the first part, often brief, is written in a different font and follows the life of Ram Odin, a starship pilot. The bulk of each chapter deals with thirteen-year old Rigg who lives a quiet life with his father, hiking through the forest and trapping animals for their furs, but who has a secret talent:
Saving the human race is a frantic business. Or a tedious one. It all depends on what stage of the process you’re taking part in.
Rigg and father usually set the traps together, because it was Rigg who had the knack of seeing the paths that the animals they wanted were still using.
Father was blind to it – he could never see the thin, shimmering trails in the air that marked the passage of living creatures through the world. But to Rigg it was, and always had been, part of what his eyes could see, without any effort at all. The newer the path, the bluer the shimmer; older ones were green, yellow; ancient ones tended toward red.
Rigg’s quiet life changes dramatically when his father dies. As he sets out to follow his father’s last instructions, he begins to discover secrets Father had kept from him. He also discovers a way to use his talent to go back in time. He sets out on a journey, as his father asked him to, and meets some new friends along the way.
I won’t say too much more about the plot because half of the fun of this novel is the surprising twists and the ways that disparate things begin to come together. Pathfinder was utterly compelling, keeping me firmly engaged right up to the last page, when I thought, “I can’t wait to read the next book!” (Card does mention in his acknowledgements that there will be a second book).
Card has created a fascinating story here, peopled by likable characters and intriguing secrets. It’s a very complex story; one of the things my 16-year old son said he liked best about it was the characters’ discussions of time travel and the usual paradoxes that are created when someone goes back in time and tries to change the future (I love time travel plots, so I enjoyed this aspect, too). He and I both loved this novel and are eagerly awaiting the next one.
657 pages, Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster)