I came to Orson Scott Card through his extensive “Enderverse”. Ten books total; five centered on his boy hero Ender Wiggin, from Ender’s Game fame; five more centered around Bean, and the other battle-school children dealing with life back on a post-bugger war – Earth. If all that means nothing to you, then I would strongly suggest reading either series of books, or better yet, all ten. The writing is smart, treats the reader with a certain respect of understanding, and simply put, the plots, stories and characters are great!
So it was with that background in Card’s work, that when a friend suggested I read Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, my first thoughts were, “Is Ender in it?” And when the answer came back, “Sorry. No.” my interest waned. It would be hard to read words written by an author I was so attached to, but about a subject that was strange to what I knew. Orson Scott Card has tons of books, but he was always just the creator of my favorite Sci-fi book of all. I’m glad I branched out.
Pastwatch is a science fiction story, with strong characters whose motivations and moralities are clearly defined. They are relatable. Reachable. Yet, somehow, as with most of Card’s characters, even those so like us that we feel the interaction between character and reader stronger then ever, even then, they can somehow rise to occasions and do actions that make us wonder at their strength and courage.
In a world where war, famine and human cruelty have won the day; where the scattered pockets of growing human society scratch and claw and attempt to use their collected efforts to restore the Earth to the lush provider it had once been, we have the people of Pastwatch. They can look back through time and have the ability to record the mistakes as well as the miracles, that made their reality what it is when the story starts. How better to rebuild the wonders and cultures of a world where humans are on the brink of cultural extinction, than with a technology that can literally look back and capture those moments as they happened.
But when one researcher, consistently disgusted with what she sees as the worst of human nature shapes our history, decides that she’s found the moment of historical significance where human-kind began its slow decent into anarchy, conquest, slavery and destruction, she decides she has to try and stop it. Even if it means that everyone and everything she knows now would cease to exist.
And that moment? Columbus’ “discovery” of the New World and his consequent return to Spain.
The mix of history and fiction is seamless, and makes for a view of Columbus and of his time that I for one had never considered. There are realities that don’t often come to light when romanticizing our favorite story of adventure and new discovery. And while this book was totally a work of fiction, it makes you want to read more about Central America and early Mesoamerican cultures. The bibliography at the end is a GREAT help for that.