Monday, October 09, 2006

Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

by Orson Scott Card
After reading some pretty good science fiction, I started reading this, and thought to myself, "Oh yeah, this is how it's done." This is the good stuff. Pastwatch is a far-future organization dedicated to viewing and studying the past. Machines let researchers watch anything from any time through history. Teams work on projects, trying to find the truth behind ancient legends, for example. One researcher, studying slavery, finds a clue that the long-dead people she's watching might occasionally be able to see her as well. If this is possible, could she help them out of their terrible suffering? Should she? And if everyone could agree to alter history, how could it be done in a way that wouldn't backfire? This storyline alternates with a vivid account of Christopher Columbus's life, as he grows and focuses his formidable energies on his lifelong mission. He's presented as a generally good man who is very much a product of his society. Card makes him a rich and fascinating character, and there's a lot of suspense in anticipating his eventual collision with the well-meaning time-travellers. Will it be the end of both parties? My wife and I found the book impossible to put down.

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