Jan 11, 2008

Pastwatch

the Redemption of Christopher Columbus
by Orson Scott Card

Pastwatch is a real thinker. It posits the question: if you could really go back in time and change the past, would you? Constructed around a future hundreds of years ahead of our time, and the life of Christopher Columbus in the past, this book is both a science-fiction mind-bender and a thoughtful historical novel. The premise is that in the future, historians can use machines to look back in time and study any person they want. They fixate on Columbus as having been a key figure in propagating misery upon humankind, and aim to go back in time and change what he did... at a great cost to themselves.

I found that the parts of the book describing how Columbus thought and acted sprang to life for me- I was really picturing what it was like to live in his time, how he came to set off on his famous voyage of discovery. But the future-time scenes left something to be desired; they focused so much on dialog and what was being done, I didn't get much sense of the characters' surroundings and several times got lost because I missed a small cue as to what was happening in the plot, hinted at in someone's conversation. By the time the book wound to a close, I was beginning to loose interest. It all wrapped up too quickly.

Card is a great writer about human relationships. There were lots of observations on marriage and the subtle balance of control between men and women (I'm thinking Queen Isabella and the King in particular). The issues of slavery, racism and how religion was used as an oppressive force are a very large presence in this book.

This is the first book I have read concurrent with my husband since we went through a half-dozen Orwell novels together. He was so eager to discuss things in the book with me, yet didn't want to give away the plot, I actually got encouraged to spend time sitting in bed reading in order to catch up with what he'd read on the train. It was thought-provoking and fun.

Rating: 4/5 ........ 402 pgs, 1996

4 comments:

Literary Feline said...

What an interesting premise! I haven't ever read Orson Scott Card, but I may eventually.

ravenous reader said...

My son used to read Card quite a bit, and I remember reading one or two of his books, but I haven't read anything of Card's in quite a while. I've been seeing recommendations popping up on other blogs, and this one looks very good.

Heather said...

Oooh, I'm glad you stopped by my blog and introduced yourself. I have a feeling that I'm really going to enjoy your blog and find A LOT more books to read this year.

I also loved the thought provoking subjects in this book -- religion's role in our lives, the balance between men and women, our responsibility (or lack of responsibility) to make others' lives better. It wasn't my favorite Card novel, but gave me MORE than enough food for thought. Still digesting some of the things I learned through reading it.

Jeane said...

Literary F- You definitely should try Card, though I might not start with this book. Ender's Game won the Hugo and Nebula awards, as is my favorite of his.

Ravenous- this is the first Card book I've read in several years, myself. It was really good.

Heather- Glad you like the blog! I'll be happy to add to your reading pile!