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Monday, February 10, 2014

What I’m Reading: Pastwatch- The Redemption of Christopher Columbus


Sometimes I like Orson Scott Card’s books and sometimes I do not.  You can’t win ‘em all, right…His writing is inconstant and variable.  When he writes well we get winners like Ender’s Game with strange and powerful ideas and compelling characters.  When he writes badly we get book’s like Empire – which is as subtle and creatively developed as Card’s fellow Mormon, Glenn Beck.

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is one of my favorites from Card, and I’ve enjoyed reading it a couple of times – but it’s not a great book.  It’s an IDEA book; it lacks any significant character development.  But to Card’s credit, it’s a terrific idea.

In our history the landing of Christopher Columbus in the “New World” led to horrific tragedy – torture, plunder, genocide, and trans-Atlantic slave trading.  The rape of the New World.  The worst kind of human cruelty on a massive scale became a turning point in the flow of history.  The wealth of the new world was stolen to finance and the wars of kings in Europe.  An entire continent of people was exterminated or subjugated. 

 But in our future (the fictional future imagined by Card) this could change.  The sins of the father don’t have to be visited upon his sons…  Pastwatch – a group of scientists enabled by a device observes the events of the past, watching them, recording them.  And eventually discovering that the events of the past are changeable, malleable.  The past can undone.  The future can be restored. Past can be redeemed – Christopher Columbus, once considered a hero, now portrayed as an ambitious plunderer, can be redeemed. 


As I said, Pastwatch isn’t a great book.  I think the ending is a little too neat and tidy. There are large stretches were Card falls back on –telling- the reader rather than –showing- the reader what’s going on.  And there isn’t a single character that’s substantially fleshed out.  It’s the idea that carries this book along; fortunately it’s a powerful idea.


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