Marty Reeder's Reviews > Pathfinder

Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
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's review
Nov 12, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: need-to-acquire, bedroom-bookshelf
Read in March, 2015

Two or three yeas ago I checked this out of the library when I shouldn't have. Life was busy, I was in the middle of too many things to touch a story as big as this, but it was a new Orson Scott Card book and ... well, I got it with the thought that I could at least glance at the cover every now and then before returning it. This is probably the same justification that an alcoholic gives when buying liquor ... and the result was the same. I wolfed down the first third of the book without even thinking twice. Then I had imposing deadlines and a due date at the library and ... and I just knew that unless I didn't mind going to debtor's prison, I'd better return the book to the library unfinished (do they still have debtor's prison? do library fines count for that? should I stop asking non-sensical questions?).

That is not a satisfying way to stop reading a book. When I want to stop reading a book, I want to throw it disdainfully in the wastebasket, smugly light it on fire, drop it into a vat of burning acid in disgust ... not enjoy my reading experience but be too cowardly to face a disproving glance from some volunteer, elderly librarian as she scours my account for late fees. So ... I bought it. Then, I figured, I could take as much time as needed to down the reading experience, without any of the guilt. Turns out, I didn't need that much time. The story is not just engaging for the first third of the book, but throughout, and before I knew it, I'd zipped through Pathfinder with complete satisfaction.

Orson Scott Card's world here is introduced through a fascinating protagonist who can see the paths that people have made in their travels, from the person walking next to him at the moment, to someone wandering around in the same area centuries ago. The implications of this are many, and Card deftly addresses them all. Then, mix that in with a friend who can slow down time (or speed up the mind), which then enables, between the two of them, a form of time travel and things get really interesting. Throw in some more characters, consequences, and increasingly complicated and interesting settings and you find yourself willingly submitting to any new path Card throws in your way.

As with all things time travel, my feeble mind cannot wrap its way around all of the concepts being played around with. There was one time travel factor that was so convoluted that even though it explained itself several times, I simply had to just trust that Card knew what he was talking about (to my credit, he even re-explains it in the Afterword since he acknowledged it to be a tricky concept ... I still didn't get it, but I did feel better about myself). I also found some of the story's pacing erratic. Some scenes are dwelt upon with an intense focus on every last detail. Then whole weeks are skimmed past with a quick sentence. I know that is the nature of most stories, but I find the choice in scene-selection a little bit arbitrary and possibly linked to a bit of author laziness ("I could get more into this, but that's just a lot more trouble than it's worth writing about ... I'll just skip it" sort of thing). The more I think of it, the more I realize that this is a common thread in many of Card's works. For the most part, it doesn't bother me much, but in this story it does dwell on parts I care less about and skim other parts that I feel would merit more attention.

Regardless, Pathfinder is master storytelling. Threads (paths?) are brought together with complete satisfaction that otherwise felt hopelessly disconnected with the story. The climax is exciting and elevates the story's themes to whole new, fulfilling levels. While new aspects of the story are opened up to make room for the sequel in this trilogy, I still found the ending complete enough to work on its own. I'd be excited to read the sequel next but ... I'm afraid of checking it out from the library. I suppose I'll have to scrounge up some money and buy it! If It's anything like the first in the series, it'll be worth it.

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