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Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (Pastwatch #1)

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  10,117 ratings  ·  729 reviews
In one of the most powerful and thought-provoking novels of his remarkable career, Orson Scott Card interweaves a compelling portrait of Christopher Columbus with the story of a future scientist who believes she can alter human history from a tragedy of bloodshed and brutality to a world filled with hope and healing.
Paperback, 402 pages
Published February 15th 1997 by Tor Science Fiction (first published 1996)
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerOutlander by Diana GabaldonThe Time Machine by H.G. WellsTimeline by Michael CrichtonSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Best Time Travel Fiction
38th out of 1,000 books — 3,229 voters
Ender's Game by Orson Scott CardDune by Frank Herbert1984 by George OrwellFahrenheit 451 by Ray BradburyBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Books
180th out of 4,449 books — 16,022 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Stephen
4.0 to 4.5 stars. Another superb novel by OSC. Apart from Empire which I did not like, I have found Card's novels to be consistently excellent and both Speaker for the Dead and Hart's Hope are on my list of "All Time Favorites" (with Ender's Game not far behind.

I was surprised to see that this novel was not among the list of nominees for any of the SF awards during its year of eligibility. It was certainly worthy of being recognized as one of the best of 1996. RECOMMENDED!!
Rhyd Wildermuth
Apr 10, 2008 Rhyd Wildermuth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Homophobes, Fundamentalists, Misogynists, White Supremacists, and Mormons
No one can begrudge Card for using Sci-Fi as a field for propaganda: the medium itself (world-creation/world-defining) by nature almost requires it.

But unless you're rather fond of the idea that mormon "family values" are somehow universal, and extend throughout the whole history of humanity, than you might not go for this book.

I didn't.

If you're the sort who watches the history channel and finds it profound, somehow missing the propaganda within a narrative of human actions throughout record
...more
Joe Valdez
The next stop in my time travel marathon was Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, the 1996 novel by Orson Scott Card. This was my introduction to Card, one of the more prolific science fiction authors working; his Ender saga alone equals the flex of most writers out there. Pastwatch was rumored to be the beginning of a series, and with the attention to both character and history, as well as dedication to a rousing good tale, I couldn't be more excited to visit this world again.

Past
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Hayden Casey
This book is in the key of C Minor, because it's just that tragic.

Final Verdict: 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001 Stars

Sometimes, English teachers make horrible choices.
Pastwatch is no exception.
It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad book.

Three Big Things that Epically Suck About Pastwatch, in No Particular Order
The First: The Plot Holes
In Pastwatch, the characters go back in time and try to prevent the people of the past from dying. In one scene of the book, Manjam (a scient
...more
Hugh Henry
Mar 16, 2008 Hugh Henry rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: fiction
This is a well-written work of science fiction, as are all of Card's works. Like his Rachel and Leah, however, the characters of this book who pretend to be historical are not very accurate. I enjoy good fiction and exciting narratives. I dislike fiction masquerading as history or a work such as this blurring the lines between history and fiction so thoroughly that it is impossible to see where the imagination ends and facts begin.
The idea that the voyage of Columbus changed the entire face of
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Beth
This is an idea book, not a character book. In this book, Card is exploring the idea that a group of people would deliberately go back in time to alter events in such a way that human history would work out "better." The height of hubris, definitely, for any group of mortals to think they could predict future events accurately enough to know what to "improve." I think that Card is right that humanity would have to be in the brink of extinction before they would permit such an experiment.

There ar
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Claude Bertout
Recommended by Jocelyn and Joje. It's a science-fiction, utopian novel as well as a thoughtful and well-researched reflection on History and its twists, a moral tale filled with lovely, compassionate and clever characters. At some point in my reading, I thought that the story was lacking a major villain (there is a minor one) to make the plot even more exciting and a little less heavy on the politically correct, but this may have been my wicked mind speaking. In the end, I came to realize that a ...more
Ellen
Great, great book. I've mentioned recently in reviews that I've read some time travel books people have recommended as "as good as Connie Willis" and they never turn out to be; this is the only other book I can think of that I put on the same level as Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog (though I read it first, so really, it was more like reading Doomsday Book and thinking it was as good as Pastwatch). Highly recommended.
Gill
“I guess every writer who considers writing fiction occasionally has the experience of running across a book whose plot is one he was working on himself, thinking it an original idea.

I have had an idea for a SF novel very much along the lines of Pastwatch for at least 10 years. I never had the drive to bring the idea to life, just some sketches and development ideas. So I was shocked when I read Pastwatch. I realized how much of what we think is our own idea is just floating out there in the Zei
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Bruce Sanders
This was recommended to me by a friend. It is an alternative history book rather than what I'd call a sci-fi book and I'm not really an alternative history fan. Pastwatch is an organization that does what it says. Via special machines Pastwatch personnel are able to tap into the past and watch history. One day one of the workers discovers that it may be possible to interact with the past and thus change the past (and everything in the future that follows from that change). It is later discovered ...more
Regina
May 22, 2008 Regina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All
Recommended to Regina by: Dwight
Loved it!!! I LOVE time-travel/historical fiction/alternate reality stories. I am also in love with books that can broaden my horizons, tell a compelling story, and have great writing. This definitely fit the bill. It is well written, had a great plot, the characters were interesting, and it was thought provoking.

My love of this genre started for me with "the Magic Tunnel" where children travel back to 1664, when New York was New Amsterdam. I also loved "The Devil's Arithmetic" where 12 year old
...more
Dora Gao
Pastwatch was one of those books that got better and better as I read. The concept of being able to change history is incredibly fascinating, both from a physics time-travel point of view, and from a historical/philosophical context. The concept of "Pastwatch" - being able to scroll through history as if watching it on film (or microfilm, as it were, which is how I pictured it in the book) is both well-constructed and well-executed in the book. Definitely a recommended read for history buffs, sc ...more
Josiah
Such a headtrip for history buffs, this story invovles time travel, social culpability for genocide, archaeology, and more!
Jake
This is only the second Orson Scott Card book I’ve read. When it comes to sci-fi, I’m an Arthur C. Clarke fan all the way, and don’t dabble in much else. As with Ender’s Game I came to Pastwatch via a friend’s recommendation. She had others of Card’s books she liked more, but I opted to try this one because of the subject material. I was curious to see how Card would depict Columbus, a prominent figure in Card’s (and my) native culture of Mormonism.

In short, I didn’t find the book especially
...more
Melissa
I'm a big fan of Orson Scott Card. His books show that he has one of the most imaginative minds out there. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is no different.

It starts out with a small prologue, that explains how the world has ended up in the not so distant future. We learn that many species and many humans have been wiped out but despite this, humanity has taken a turn. It has become, while not Utopian, a more understanding society, interested in learning from mistakes.

We then ar
...more
Lady Knight
Orson Scott Card is one of my favorite authors, and this book really cemented his reputation as a master of Science Fiction, in my opinion.

Pastwatch is an organization in the future that has discovered the technology to be able to watch every second of every day ever lived in the history of the world. Many people who work for Pastwatch have their own projects. While researching slavery, it is discovered that someone has previously sent future things into the past so as to change the outcome of h
...more
John
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stacie
I honestly had no idea what this book was about before I read it. I even considered not reading it, but finished my other book before I could check another one out from the library. I'm so glad I read it. I've always been an 'Ender's Game' fan, but Orson Scott Card has never wowed me since then. This book definitely wowed me. It didn't 'Ender's Game' wow, but it definitely came close. I love it when a science fiction author can create something that I could really see as happening. It brings a n ...more
Maria
I almost gave this book 3 stars but that would have been in comparison to other Card novels. Comparing it to the books I read it deserves 4 stars.

I enjoyed the story and after awhile I couldn't put it down. Because most of the novel is preparation and only the very end deals with what the characters were trying to do it is a unique story. I can see how it might feel like the novel takes forever to get going, I even felt that way a few times. However, I think the preparation was actually really
...more
Sarah Hipple
Pastwatch is a really interesting alternate history by Orson Scott Card.

It is really hard to give a summary of this book without giving away any spoilers. Normally I'd give a short summary and then go into my opinions, but I don't feel comfortable giving a summary here because one of the most important plot points isn't something you discover until half way through the book, and I'm not going to ruin that for you guys.

One of the most interesting parts of this book is that it takes place during t
...more
Brandan Lloyd
Mar 21, 2009 Brandan Lloyd rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Corinne
Recommended to Brandan by: Clint
This book is a fascinating read. If you liked Cryptonomicon you will like this. This is a view into a future civilization that has perfected the ability to look back over history, following individuals and analyzing their decisions. It plays with the concept of the possibility of changing a moment in time and perfecting their own timeline.

Unlike other time travel books this one doesn't gloss over or sugar coat the decision to change the past. The decision is hard but it is made for, what they f
...more
Paul Callister
Pastwatch does what science fiction should do: recast our conception of the world, in this case the history surrounding Christopher Columbus and the bloody conquest of the Americas. It is a tale of what might have been, an exploration of the for forces governing history, and the delicate balances of power affected by the butterfly effect.

The book also raises fascinating issues about "being the all-seeing eye" and being able to affect the past. It is fascinating to see the effects of seership or
...more
Kirkus
Only managed to get ahold of the audio version and boy was I surprised. It was an excellent telling as compared to how I previously experienced audiobooks. I generally don't like audiobooks since they take 10 ish? hours to listen to and Im usually able to consume a book in less of the time it would have required to listen to the story.

As for the book itself, its fairly enjoyable. Im assuming that the book also has 15 chapters due to their being 15 tracks. The first 10 chapters is all about the m
...more
Stephen Gallup
Somebody mentioned this title in the comments under another review, and it sounded interesting enough to end up in my list. Because the plot is complicated, here's the high-level synopsis:

About two hundred years in our future, human society has finally attained what appears to be peace and prosperity, but only after emerging from some unspecified horrific die-off/cataclysm. Cultural and technological advances of the past would have been forever lost, but for the development of a means of lookin
...more
Eric Marcy
A remarkably compelling and thought provoking story. Card proves once again he is a master at getting the most out of the genre of science fiction, using his "Pastwatch" concept of historical study and time travel to explore the impact of Christopher Columbus on world history, while pointing to a far more noble and beautiful vision of life than many of us dare to imagine. Card engages the reader both intellectually and emotionally, a remarkable skill of his, and develops Columbus as a noble yet ...more
Cory Aldrich
Feb 20, 2012 Cory Aldrich rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Cory Aldrich by: Ben
Fantastic from start to finish. An amazing example of the alternate-history genre. Card seamlessly blends research and creativity. His story-telling is is masterful, bringing life and voice to each of his characters. Many thanks to Ben for the recommendation.
Leon Aldrich
Another well written thought provoking novel by Orson Scott Card. I freely admit I'm a big fan of most his work.

You don't have to be a believer to have empathy for the human condition and the struggle we all face to live beyond our nature.
Shivering William
I felt bogged down by Card's research. There's an incredible story in here, made frothy by tiresome geology, overexplained politics, and too many perspectives from minor characters. If you can find an abridged version, I'd recommend it.
Dmack
Actually one of my favorite Card books ever; only one of 2 that I’ve read twice (Ender being the other of course); takes u on a wonderful trip thru time with awesome What if? scenarios; a must for any time jumping junkie!!
Laura Guill
The first 3/4 of this book is just discussing a "what-if" scenario. While interesting, it is not plot, it is not a story -- it's an analysis (which somehow manages to completely ignore how North America would factor in -- is it part of the empire?). All characters introduced are there to provide another point of discussion to the scenario. Columbus himself is depicted as a "great" man (literally, that's how he is always described), with his only fault his attitude towards non-whites…overall, a r ...more
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Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.
Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series Th
...more
More about Orson Scott Card...
Ender's Game (The Ender Quintet, #1) Speaker for the Dead (The Ender Quintet, #2) Ender's Shadow (Ender's Shadow, #1) Xenocide (The Ender Quintet, #3) Children of the Mind (The Ender Quintet, #4)

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