I’ve noted before that I find Orson Scott Card to be uneven – outstanding at his best, but below par at his worst. I lost track of his work after a string of duds, a too-right wing SF series, and a seemingly endless set of collaborations in the Ender universe. Recently, I picked up a couple of his more recent works, including Pathfinder. They rank among his good books.
While The Lost Gate, Card’s recent younger adult series, had failings of characterization, he does much better in Pathfinder. He’s also come closer to the writing skill that first drew my attention back in the 70s.
Pathfinder is Card’s take on time travel, and he’s done reasonably good things with it, including facing paradox head on. There’s nothing particularly new in his solutions, but his science fantasy setting is novel, and some of the details are interesting. There are a number of sizable logic holes that are simply ignored – not even papered over – and some the explanations of admittedly paradoxical matters simply aren’t credible. Still, it’s fun to see the characters trying to work things out in their own heads, and usually coming up with the kind of pragmatic answers the reader does.
The characters in this book are interesting and fairly credible. It’s a largely male cast, and there are traces of sexism, but it’s a more balanced approach than in The Lost Gate. There’s a bit too much self-pity on one hand and too much confidence on another, but most of the characters are stock characters done well.
While Card’s characters engage in witty, engaging banter, the dialogue is also very busy – to the point that it stops being credible. There’s simply too much squabbling repartee, and while each line works individually, the totality stops being fun to read after a while. As in much of Card’s work, characters call each other out on exaggerations and melodrama, which is still refreshing.
All in all, it’s not Card’s best, but it’s pretty good, and worth looking into. It promises interesting developments in coming books.