Friday, April 8, 2011


I don't know why, but I tend to give established authors a wide berth. Maybe it's due simply to the circumstances in which I get most of my books (usually advance reader's copies trying to promote new authors). Sometimes a book will come through from a well-known author, and I will think to myself, I wish I read that author, but I rarely take the book to try. It would never even have occurred to me to see if I liked Orson Scott Card, and to be honest, I don't know why I picked up Pathfinder. The description was mildly interesting but nothing I would have thought I had to have.

After reading a very good book, The Iron Queen, reviewed here, I was looking for something that would engage me as much. I'm not saying I was mysteriously drawn to Pathfinder or led to read it, just that it's ironic I should choose science fiction when I am more of a fantasy reader and was looking for something as good as a story about fairies. But choose it I did. And though I cannot say I was magically drawn to the book, I can definitely say the book drew me in from the start.

Pathfinder is young adult science fiction. It tells the story of a boy from the backwoods who is unlike most of his peers. He's a trapper like his father, but unlike anyone else, he can see the paths of every living creature living before him in streaks of color before his vision. Because of it, he and his father are very good trappers, but Rigg's father is also determined to give Rigg the best schooling possible. So, while they walk the forests, he teaches Rigg about science, language, history, astronomy, physics, everything a backwoods boy should never need to know.

Then Rigg's father dies, leaving him heir to an enormous amount of wealth in the form of 19 jewels as well as a quest to find a sister he never knew he had. Accompanied by his friend Umbo, the only other boy with a special power in their little village, they head for the cities where they will need more than their abilities to help them survive.

Within the first 30 pages of this large 600-pager, the characters were so well-established I was hooked. They were real, developed, surprising, funny. They talked about bodily functions (this is a book written by a man with male protagonists). Rigg was smart and a smart aleck in an endearing way. I wanted to know more about him and his mysterious father.

Then each chapter began to start with a seemingly completely different story about a kid piloting a spaceship from a devastated Earth, hoping to jump through space to a new planet. I was intrigued about how the two stories might match up.

In Pathfinder, the mysteries keep building, but the clues are fun to follow. You should have a pretty good idea of what's going on before you get to the end. It's satisfying to figure out.

Orson Scott Card plays with time travel a great deal in this book, and not in the same way as much other science fiction. He changes the rules. But it works in its own way, even if it sometimes makes your head (and the heads of his characters) hurt. His explanations of how the science of the world works are sometimes lengthy and would have put me off if he hadn't made sure I was invested in his characters before he started giving them. Character is what makes this book work.

So, for all my male readers out there, because honestly, this book was written for you guys, see what you think of Pathfinder. It's only young adult because the protagonists are young, but it's smart and funny enough for all ages. And if you enjoy it, more of Rigg's story is on the way and shouldn't be long. Orson Scott Card wrote this one in six months!

Four stars for a book I never would have guessed I'd like.

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