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56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
First things first: this book is being marketed as a young adult fantasy novel. It is no such thing, though I see no reason why any young adult would not enjoy the book. PATHFINDER is science fiction, though at first glance it does appear to be a fantasy story. Orson Scott Card has a dual mastery of both the science fiction and fantasy genres--few authors can bring worlds to life like Card can, and it speaks to his strength as a storyteller that through the very different mechanics of worldbuilding in the two genres, he never struggles. You will find all the things in this novel that you find in many of Card's best books: a prodigy of a child hero, Rigg, too smart for his age; political intrigue with Rigg in the thick of it; heavy theoretical and philosophical conversations between characters, etc. The conversations in PATHFINDER often deal with the nature of time travel as it is possible in the realm of the story. Indeed, if the Shadow series was Card's political science series, the Ender series his first contact saga, or the Alvin Maker series his fantastic alternate history series, then this book begins his "time travel" series.

And boy does Card do time travel well. Slow to start, the world of this book envelopes you through its 600-some odd pages. I finished it three days ago, and my first reaction was, "Well, that wasn't Card's best work. But not a bad story at all." My brain has not left the wallfold, however, and my imagination continues to be captivated by the story of PATHFINDER. I absolutely cannot wait for the rest of this series to be released. It has been a very long time since I have been as excited about new work from Mr. Card as I am for the continuation of this series. PATHFINDER will grow on you, if you do not fall in love with it immediately.

Rigg, the main character of the story, is told by his father that there is "a perfectly logical explanation" for why he is able to see the paths of people's pasts. The story also follows other extraordinary human beings who have come to exist on the planet Garden, whose origins we discover with brief side-stories chapter by chapter in typical Card fashion. There is Umbo, who can speed up the perception and clarity of mind of anyone around him. When he does this to Rigg, it enables Rigg to pick out an individual path from the past until it becomes real to him, making the two boys able to change the past with their combined abilities. While they are the two focal points of the story, they are not the only special people in the world. There is a woman who can divert attention with a little "spell," and other characters with unnatural resistances to horror and mental pain that serves them well throughout the story. Rigg's sister, too, has perhaps a power more important than any others combined.

These are the elements of the story that make it seem like fantasy. A few of the powers, however, are explained through the course of the book as having a purely scientific origin, albeit a theoretical one. To be fair, I should not call the book pure science fiction. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is theoretical physics fiction. Nothing in the book is ever explained off as magic, and the future books in the series can only flesh out the world in a more scientific, grounded way.

I say that it is no more a young adult novel than any of Card's other books because, simply, it is a very intelligent book. PATHFINDER is not heavy on action. Like many of Card's best books, it is the intrigue and mysteries of the plot that keep the reader going. The thoughts and conversations of the characters drive the story, and that is not typical of young adult books, which tend to be plot-driven instead of idea-driven like this story.

Perhaps it is the promise of the series as a whole, and not the individual merits of this first book, that has me most excited. Either way, I regret no part of reading PATHFINDER. If the remaining books in the trilogy (which are scheduled to be released sometime in 2011 and 2012 respectively) are up to par, this promises to be one of Card's best works. Orson Scott Card fans, don't miss out; if you are new to him, this isn't a bad place to start, though elements of this story have been done better in some of Card's other works.
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80 of 88 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I went into Pathfinder as a relative OSC novice. After having read Ender's Game just recently, I was excited to hear that a new Card book was coming out! It certainly did not disappoint. This is a complex look at the tried and true sci fi theme of time travel and time manipulation. We meet Rigg, a young boy who has recently lost the man he has always known as his father and is now off on a quest to discover his heritage. Along the way he picks up Umbo and Loaf, and together they head off to discover the secrets of Rigg's inheritance and his strange ability. At the beginning of each chapter, we also meet Ram, the only human astronaut awake aboard a ship full of sleeping humans off to colonize a new world. I must admit that I didn't figure out exactly how these two stories connected until about 200 pages in when a light bulb went off and I finally began to see some connections. These are all great characters and the author does quite a bit of world building by just letting us in on what is going on in their heads.

Rigg's relationship with his father and his then masterful handling of the political intrigue that he finds himself immersed in are a shining testament to the power of not merely education, but an education in critical thinking. Reading the character of Rigg is highly entertaining. His verbal sparring with bankers, politicians, and even his friends is so incredibly well written, it turns a book that is essentially driven by a scientific concept into a compelling page turner that I did not want to put down.

This is an adventure tale told in a fashion that will be a bit subtler than some teens are used to. There's plenty of excitement, interesting science concepts to ponder, and memorable moments to keep any sci fi fan reading away. My only fault, and it's a small one, is that the character's constant comments over how difficult the whole time travel thing was to understand got a bit tedious after awhile. The strength of this book lies in the intrigue and mystery surrounding Rigg, and it's this that in the end keeps the plot moving and the reader interested. A recommend for any sci fi fan, whether teen or adult.

Oh, and one final thing: the ending was incredible! I really hope there's a sequel!
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59 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Let me begin by saying that I am a huge Orson Scott Card (OSC) fan. I think OSC's work is as good as it gets when it comes to exploring ethical dilemmas and character development in the context of a hugely entertaining story.

By OSC's lofty standards, Pathfinder is pretty pedestrian and would probably deserve about three stars. However, if it is placed in the context of the work produced by the best active 20 SF writers, I think it deserves a solid four stars.

Pathfinder is aimed at a young audience. The sentence structures used in the first couple of chapters have been simplified. I can't comment on whether this carried forward throughout the book, since I became more engrossed in the story and stopped paying attention to the grammar. On the other hand, the vocabulary didn't seem to be restricted.

Some other reviewers have complained the book and/or the way time travel operated was so complicated as to detracted from the story. I did not find this to be the case. The way in which time travel paradoxes are resolved is not any more complicated than any other SF novel that features time travel and attempts to resolve those paradoxes. I also didn't find the way the two plot lines came together to be especially obscure. I thought it was pretty clear how they related to each other about 10-15% of the way into the book.

The good (in no particular order):

Pathfinder is an entertaining story. It is aimed at a juvenile audience but I would also recommend it for adults.

Character development is good by most standards but falls short of other OSC work.

There is some exploration of ethical dilemmas and human motivation (more below).

There is a completely new take on what time travel means and how time travel paradoxes are resolved.

The not so good (in no particular order):

The book ends with the protagonists out of immediate danger, but with none of the plot lines resolved. The novel won't be complete without the sequel(s).

Those that are looking for a self-consistent universe are going to be disappointed. For example, one of the protagonists has the ability to manipulate time in such a way that they can pass through solid objects, but they don't sink into the floor. This sort of thing normally bothers me a lot. However, in the case of Pathfinder, the important part of the story is the protagonists discovering how to manipulate and use their abilities and how they can be combined rather than building a reasonable basis for how the abilities work. Bottom line: I am surprised to find that the inconsistencies didn't bother me nearly as much as they normally do.

The ethical issue that is most thoroughly explored is the nature of friendship. However, it is not done very satisfactorily. The main protagonist consistently places his friends in danger without any apparent internal dilemma. Another protagonist is described as having a deep love for his wife, but has no internal struggle over leaving her, perhaps forever, to help someone he is not certain is his friend. Other ethical dilemmas such as the guidance vs. control of humans by artificial beings is set up, but is not in any way explored.

Bottom line: If you haven't read OSC, read his other work first (starting with Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead). If you have already read them, you will find Pathfinder wanting by comparison, but still a good read. If you are looking for a juvenile book, Ender's Game is still a better choice.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Card has returned with a vengeance in this newest series. Which is to say we had two stories going on at one.

The main, real story of the book was about Rigg who has always been able to see people's paths. He can spot where people have gone and how old they are. This has only seemed like a small thing, until he learns that with the help of his friend Umbo, he can actually go back to those times. He also learns that his father has actually been training him for something he has not realized before. He is, in fact, the long lost son of the no longer in power royal family. And the sister he never knew he had has the ability to slow down time for herself to the point where she can become invisible. Rigg, taking his place with his family, must maneuver the political entrapments and learn what his real father was studying to discover there is a safe way through the wall that encloses their kingdom.

The second story, which we only get a little bit of in each chapter, is actually the origin story, explaining how people came to the planet, how the barriers came about, and how the world and its rules were established. Mostly, we learn about the dilemmas that take place as Ram Odin helps lead the ship meant to increase mankind's hope of survival by spreading the human race beyond one planet.

The book has a number of themes going on, from the difficulties and intricacies or time travel to what it means to be human (does having the ability to manipulate time and space preclude you from being human?). On the one hand, these are interesting ideas, the kind of debates you would have in a college philosophy class. On the other hand, this book is meant for young adults. I found myself having a hard time following everything that was being said (meaning I had to pay really close attention to what I was reading) and I am generally very good at understanding these types of things. Which leads me to wonder, how many kids are going to be able to really follow what was being discussed? And was all of that discussion necessary?

In fact, this book was all about talking and debating. Who should Rigg trust? His mother or sister who may find him to be a threat because the once-royal family usually kills its males so only a female can rule? His guard who may be loyal to the government that overthrew the royal family all together? The man whose house he stays in who may be intent on overthrowing the government and using Rigg for his own goals? There were so many interesting ideas being thrown around but the truth is that very little actually happened. There is very little real and present danger. It also seems like a bit of a cheat that only the good guys have any magic.

Add to this the fact that none of the characters are particularly likable. Rigg puts his friends in danger without much care for what might happen. Loaf easily leaves his wife who he claims to love, rather than asking her to come along or even tell her what his plans are. Umbo, perhaps the most likable of all, begins the story by leading a crowd to lynch Rigg and though his confusion was understandable (he had thought that Rigg had intentionally killed his brother) does not really go beyond the sad boy who has a sad childhood with an abusive father. Rigg's sister might be likable if she were visible for long enough for us to get to know. She's certainly sympathetic, but we don't know her well enough to really like her.

Now that I've complained a lot about the book, I want to say it's not that I didn't enjoy this book. But after the brilliance that was Ender's Game, Pathfinder is a bit of a let down. Good enough that I will read the second book when it comes out, but not so good that I'm dying for it already.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The story centers on a teenage boy named Rigg. He and his father live alone wandering the woods as trappers. When we are introduced to Rigg, we quickly learn that he has an unusual gift. He can see the paths that people or animals have taken in the past. They appear as colorful ribbons in the air, and can go back thousands of years. His father spends every waking moment teaching Rigg about his power and about life in general.

The story really starts going when Rigg's father dies. His dying wish is for Rigg to go on a journey to meet his mother and sister, who Rigg was told were dead. Before he gets the chance to start, however, he meets a boyhood friend, Umbro, who also has a special ability. Umbro's ability is to slow down or speed up perceptions, allowing Rigg to actually "travel" to the past paths that he can see.

Now, right off the bat, I am very worried about this book. Time travel? Talk about a mine field. How many Sci-Fi geeks have spent sleepless nights arguing about time travel and how books and movies screw it up? (I know I do every time I watch Terminator). But, Card does something unusual in this book. He knows the paradoxes that time travel creates, and instead of trying to avoid them, he actually embraces them as part of the story!

Even with the time travel stuff, this story line is actually very interesting. Each chapter starts with a secondary story about how this planet was populated. At first, it is very confusing reading the two stories. However, as the book goes along, the two stories complement each other in such a way that it makes the story whole without you realizing there was something missing. Between the history of their planet, the history of their people, the history of Rigg's family, and the dangers they all bring to our main characters, this story was very compelling.

Orson Scott Card is an interesting author. To say I am a fan of his might be overstating it, but at the same time, understating it. His book "Ender's Game" is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it many times, and I love it every time I do. The rest of his books in the "Ender" series were okay. His other series, however, I did not really enjoy.

This was the first of a series and I can't wait until the rest of the books come out. I am eager to see what the future holds for Rigg and his friends. I would recommend this book to fans of Orson Scott Card, especially if you like time travel Sci-Fi!

This book was sent to me as a complimentary review copy from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishing Company.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I love OSC and have read every short story, every novel and every essay he has ever written (that has been published of course). He is one of the Great Ones in sci-fi.

I haven't enjoyed his last several novels as much as his earlier work. For context, you should know that I think the Worthing Saga is his best work and this book shares a lot with it in concept.

The nice thing about card though is that even when he has written books that appear to have come from the same neighborhood they manage to retain a distinctive feel and rarely feel repetitive. Card is an author who has made his career looking at the same stories from different angles and he has done some pretty slick work along the way.

Take a look at Ender's Game and Songmaster or his work retelling the stories of his religious community (Joseph Smith and Alvin Maker or The Memories of Earth and the Book of Mormon) and you will see what I mean.

If at this point you are wondering what the point of this review is and when am I going to talk about Pathfinder, you should be warned that you will likely be asking the same kind of question while reading Pathfinder. The book has a point but it isn't in any hurry to get there.

I was happy to ride along but this falls somewhere between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead in terms of action and it's on the Speaker side of the fence. This book has a lot of conversation abou the theories of time travel, and if that doesn't sound interesting then you may not be in the target audience. This should not be read as an indictment of the book, it's just if you are expecting action, action, action you may not enjoy the book.

The good news is that even if you have only minimal patience for a slower pace, it does have some tense moments and this book is really setting up what should be a fantastic second book.

The story is complex and told in a style not dissimilar to Brandon Sanderson's narration of his Mistborn series where there are events taking place in two different time periods that only match up near the culmination of the story.

Bottom line, this is a fun book and one of Card's best since Pastwatch: The redemption. It is published as a Young Adult novel but It is no more a YA novel than Ender's Game was.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Card's novels and shorts usually follow one of two forms.

In the first form, he creates excellent stories such as Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) (arguably one of the most important sci-fi tales of the late 20th century), Ender's Shadow (Ender, Book 5) (fully the equal of _Ender's Game_, but not as well known), and Songmaster (one of his earlier works, and unrelated to the Enderverse). In these stories, the plot drives the story, but the characters pull the reader in their world. The characters are so well defined and believable that the reader cares what happens to them.

In the second form, the plot is everything. The characters are essential to the plot, but not to the reader. Except for extraordinary abilities, they're completely interchangeable, and equally forgettable.

Unfortunately, this novel was of the second form. I just finished reading this book. If it's hadn't been for some kind of morbid curiosity about how Card was going to resolve the story, I wouldn't have even bothered. I never once cared for any of the characters at all, which could be because they all behaved like cloned automatons.

OSC has written some works worth remembering a hundred years from now. This just wasn't one of them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Let me begin by saying I have been a Card fan for many years now. I absolutely loved all the Ender books and I've enjoyed many of his other works like Songmaster and Alvin Maker. In Pathfinder there are many themes and ideas which are reminiscent of some of these older works. If you've enjoyed any of these books and are under 16, I heartily recommend you stop reading and pick up Pathfinder immediately.

Card sticks to his strong suit with the extremely precocious protagonist Rigg. When his father dies, thirteen year old Rigg sets off on a twisting journey through a vibrant fantasy setting to find his long lost sister. Along the way he is accompanied by his boy-hood friend Umbo and together they discover their mystical powers of time manipulation. Card masterfully sculpts Rigg into a likable and interesting character. Like many of his other characters, Rigg is an extremely intelligent boy with a strong moral compass; it's fun just to watch him embark on dangerous adventures and maneuver through political intrigue.

However, the reader doesn't just watch Rigg, we are able to listen to his thoughts as he works through the puzzles set before him. This is where both much of the enjoyment of the book and its major pitfall lie. Card uses Rigg's inner dialogue and his conversations with his friends to explain the complex time travel mechanic. The mechanic itself is unique in how it deals with the problems of causality, it would almost be elegant if it weren't for the repetitive expository conversations which gradually introduce the idea. Pages upon pages of the text are spent explaining and reiterating the mechanics of time-travel of the Pathfinder universe which a casual Sci-Fi reader will pick up quickly enough (or simply ignore in favor of the engrossing plot). Umbo in particular loses much of the appeal of Rigg by being frustratingly slow and ignorant. Card backs up this attribute with an interesting sub-plot, but I found myself wanting to skip the few chapters from Umbo's perspective.

Similarly, Card's writing style is sometimes overly simplistic. I realize Pathfinder is targeted toward a young adult audience, but, contrary to the opinions of some reviewers, Card does make many concessions for these younger readers. There're many moments when Card creates a subtle tone or idea and then subsequently bludgeons the reader over the head with its significance. This can be jarring and often needlessly takes you out of the compelling world.

At the beginning of every chapter there is a small alternate story of the starship pilot Ram on board one of two colony ships leaving the devastated earth. The pseudo-physics and science fiction ideas presented are intriguing. We are left guessing until nearly the end on how the stories of Ram and Rigg are related as Card brings them together masterfully, ending in spectacular dramatic form.

It may seem as though I am being critical of Pathfinder, but these are just a few blemishes on a thoroughly entertaining book. If I'm disappointed, it's only because I know Card is capable of even better. Readers expecting a deep novel like Speaker for the Dead will be similarly disappointed. However, if you're looking for a page-turning escape into a wonderfully woven world of compelling characters, look no farther.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
If you love hypothetical questions and endless theoretical study, you will love this book. If you don't love those things, but you have a hard time sleeping at night, you will also love this book. Pathfinder was a huge disappointment for me. The main problem was that it couldn't hold my interest. The story (or should I say stories, since Mr. Card seems to have integrated two separate books into one) drags on and not much actually happens in the book, even though the book is quite lengthy. Most of the dialogue felt contrived. The character development is shallow. I had to force myself to finish it. Even the end was disappointing. I understand that this is meant to be a series, but I still believe each book should have a satisfying resolution, if not conclusion.

The ideas presented in the book, however, are amazing. The time travel aspect and world theories I loved. The author was wonderfully imaginative in coming up with the basis for this book. However, in my opinion, it could have been implemented better.

Orson Scott Card is a great author but this book falls short.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was waking through the book section at our local Wal-Mart, when I saw this book and it jumped off the shelf at me. I have only read one book by Orson Scott Card and that was Ender's Game, which I loved. But I haven't really had a chance to get into the rest of that series or the Shadow Series. Or maybe I just haven't taken the time, I am not so sure!

Regardless, I picked up Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card and i thought it sounded interesting. As I read it, I was thrown in to the Space Time Continuum in ways I never thought possible and I loved it. This book totally challenges the Space Time Continuum. You know the thing that says if you go back and change the past you are changing what happens in the future.

In the Acknowledgements section at the back of the book Card says the following: "The games with time travel that I play in this book are in deliberate defiance of the consensus rules of science fictional time travel. I decided that I was not going to avoid paradox, I was going to embrace it, adopting a rule set in which it is causality that controls reality, regardless of where it occurs on the timeline."

He set out to challenge time travel basics, and he won. The book was a great read. I really enjoyed the challenge as I read it. You have to step back as the characters int he book did and understand what is happening to them. The characters in the book literally change their past in such a way that they wouldn't be in the future to come back and send the message, and it is all okay. Confusing at times, but it is all okay.

A little about the book. The book follows Rigg. His father has taught him everything he needs to know to live in every aspect of a possible life he could. But when his father dies telling him only that he needed to go and find his sister he discovers their are secrets his father never told him. Rigg already knows he has the power to see the paths of every person who has ever walked the planet, but he doesn't know the real extent of the secrets his father kept. The book follows his discovery of being a critical individual between t o government factions: one wants him crowned king, one wants him dead. The story explores his discoveries, his fights and his learning.

I was disappointed when I finished the book for one reason only---there is a sequel coming out at some point...I was disappointed only because that means I have to wait to finish the story. It was a great book and really captured my attention. It took me a little while to read only because of my own time constraints. I would recommend anyone taking the time to read the book. It is a fun story and really explores time travel in a way never done before!
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