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A Mirror for Observers Hardcover – November 1, 2004
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The Martians came to Earth 30,000 years ago, exiles from their dying planet. Seeing that human society of that time was not ready for contact with another race, they built their new homes underground and undersea, to wait for that time when humanity will grow up. They send out Observers to monitor what is happening, and occasionally help direct humans towards a more civilized, ethical society. But eventually some of them grow tired of waiting for humanity (and perhaps because one of their undersea cities was located at Bikini island), and decide to try another plan: wipe humanity out so they can take over the Earth for themselves. The conflict between one of these Abdicators and an Observer forms the upper level conflict of this novel.
The object both parties focus on, Angelo, is a twelve-year old prodigy, who is both an artist and a budding philosopher, a person who is likely to change human society towards a more peaceful, introspective, and accepting culture. But at Angelo's age he is going through the first problems of puberty and a very normal desire to be an accepted part of his peer group. His self-professed ten-year old girl friend Sharon shows signs of having the talent to become a world class pianist.
How both the Observer and the Abdicator meddle in these two peoples lives, how they grow and change, and the resultant effect on mankind as a whole forms the main part of the book.
The characters of Sharon and Angelo are superbly drawn, to where you will find it impossible not to become deeply involved with them.Read more ›
In the first part of the book, Namir attempts to use Angelo, age 12 at this point, for his own purposes. He tries to make him hate humanity, but Elmis consistently thwarts his attempts with the help of Sharon, a young girl who likes Angelo. Namir does manage to force Angelo to run away, and thus separate him from Elmis.
In the second section of the book, time has moved forward 9 years, and we see the end of Elmis' search for Angelo, who now goes by the name Abraham Brown. Once again Namir is attempting to use Angelo, and once again Elmis works to stop him. Namir does manage to release a disease which threatens to depopulate the Earth.
This is a solid book, and the potential use of biological weapons to depopulate the planet, is certainly one of the concerns in today's environment of terrorism. While "Davy" is probably Pangborn's best known work, "A Mirror for Observers" is certainly a worthy runner-up
The story is set in the 1960s-70s (the "future" back in 1954!); it's a morality tale focused on a young man, named Angelo who has the potential for greatness, if he doesn't turn to the "dark side" first:) Angelo is mentored by a kindly, avuncular man ("Elmis"), who's really a Martian in human disguise. He's also being influenced by another Martian ("Namir"), who's out to destroy humanity. Eventually Angelo runs away from home, and the book concerns Elmis' long quest to find him, and bring him back to the fold.
The premise and plot of Observers is compelling; however, the writing and characterization are very flawed, so I have to take two stars off: The book's writing is rather quaint and "precious" at times, and the dialogue is just plain awful at points. The characterization of the Martian narrator is just unbelieveable- he's stricken with an intense "love for humanity" and his various digressions on culture and music, etc are annoying. He's obviously just a stand-in for Pangborn himself. (The book would have worked better as a fantasy- if Elmis and Namir were an angel and demon instead of being aliens.) Also bad is the characterization of Angelo's love interest, Sharon, who Pangborn puts on a very high pedestal...
Pangborn was born in 1909, so he was old enough to remember the 1918 Influenza pandemic in which 20-50 million people died worldwide. Perhaps that explains why the plot includes another devastating pandemic as it's climax.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A masterpiece of classic science fiction. So great to have a hardcover. It wasn't in this format when I was a child and read it for the first time.Published 5 months ago by Cloacina, a Roman Goddess
"A Mirror for Observers" by Edgar Pangborn [554 July 8, 2014 - novel - science-fiction]
The idea of aliens from outer space clandestinely living among us, and... Read more
It's important to remember that this book was written in 1954, and is set in the 1960s and 70s. Like much SF of the period, there is a Cold War mindset, so, for example, Marx is... Read morePublished on January 2, 2014 by Gerald
This was the first sci-fi book I remember reading (back in the 1960's), and for years have wanted a chance to read it again. I was so pleased to see it available. Read morePublished on August 1, 2013 by mspsdbp49
I read this book many years ago. Did not know you could still get old copies of it. Thanks for the service!Published on August 31, 2012 by Robert O. Mccarthy