Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Audio Book Review: Pathfinder, by Orson Scott Card

I don't really know what to say about Pathfinder. It's epic. It's long. It's science fiction, time travel, and otherworldly. I'm glad I chose the audio version, because I'm not sure I would have made it through if I were reading the book. The small doses I take when listening worked well for Pathfinder.

There are two stories. First, Rigg can see people's paths. From recently or long ago. He can tell who or what traveled a certain path, and can approximate how long ago they were passing by. He and his father are trappers, and live a simple life off of the land. Rigg's father is very wise, and they spend much time discussing philosophical as well as scientific issues. When his father is killed after a tree falls on him, Rigg is left by himself. However, before he dies, his father tells him to go to the capital city of Aressa Sessamo to find his sister. Rigg didn't even know he had a sister.

So begins an epic journey. His friend, Umbo, ends up going with Rigg in order to run away from a father who mistreats him. Along the way, they meet an innkeeper, Loaf, who also becomes a major player. Their journey is long and fraught with danger. But Umbo has the power to change time, seemingly moving back and forward. The travelers use these powers to assist them many times, and each time they learn more about how their powers work. There are many discussions about time travel, and how it affects them as well as others they come in contact with. It's very complex, and Card doesn't leave anything to guess about, the characters hash this out relentlessly.

Rigg is so intelligent and has been taught so much by his father. This is evident by his entertaining dialog that even the other characters tease him about. He can play a rich uppity kid just as easily as a poor kid from "upstream." He, Umbo, and Loaf are in for many surprises, challenges, and some serious danger.

There's a separate story about Ram, who leaves Earth on a spaceship to find and populate another planet in case Earth is ever destroyed. Ram is the pilot, along with an "Expendable," which is basically an android robot. They have many people with them in stasis for when they reach another planet.

For a long time, these two stories just didn't fit together. Maybe I'm slow, but I think I was about half way through before I began to understand how they were related. There's also some complex science about a  jump that the ship makes, which inadvertently makes the ship go back 11,000 years in time, and also duplicate itself 19 times. Of course, there are lots of discussions about how and why this happened.

Sometimes the descriptions of the time travel and the nineteen duplicate ships hurt my brain, but I did still understand and enjoy the story. Pathfinder just ends without solving much. There is a big revelation, but this really just causes more questions. This is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I feel like I've invested so much into this story, that I need to know what happens. But I don't really want to read it. I'm pretty sure if I ever do decide to read the second one, I will choose the audio version again.

As far as the Pathfinder audiobook, there's a main narrator Stefan Rudnicki, and four others who read when the story is told from another perspective, such as that of Umbo or Loaf. I thought all the readers did a great job except Loaf's who really annoyed me because he was so dramatic. It was like he was performing on stage, not reading, and I hate that. Fortunately, he only narrated for one short period.

Pathfinder is really a very creative, interesting story. There are lost of interesting characters who are distinct, and their situations and conversations are entertaining. I wouldn't even say it is overly detailed. It is long, but every detail is important to this multifaceted tale, and the plot is always progressing. Hard-core science fiction or time travel fans will enjoy this.

Published by Simon Pulse, 2010 (Brilliance Audio)
Copy obtained from the library
672 pages

Rating: 4/5

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