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A Mirror for Observers Hardcover – November 1, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Old Earth Books; harcover reprint edition (November 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1882968298
  • ISBN-13: 978-1882968299
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,815,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patrick Shepherd VINE VOICE on September 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
One of the major findings of modern physics is that the observer always affects the item being observed, and vice versa. This book is this axiom brought to life in a way that will break your heart.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I originally picked this book up because it appears in David Pringle's overview book "Sci Fi: The 100 Best Books." Now that I've read it, I can see why it was included. This is a terrific, beautifully written, literate sci-fi novel, with dozens of passages so quotable that you may feel the need to underline or highlight them. In this book, Martians have been living on Earth for thousands of years in hidden underground cities. For the most part, they are benevolent observers of human affairs, but there are some, the so-called Abdicators, who seek to overthrow and do away with mankind. This novel deals with the attempt of one of these Abdicators to corrupt a gifted human boy, and the attempt of one of the other observers to prevent it. Before the novel ends, the earth has gone through a major disaster, but there is still hope for man's ultimate fate. The author, Edgar Pangborn, takes his time with the story, and the characters are well drawn and believable. There's lots of poetic imagery and quasi-religious symbolism, as well as a good number of startling surprises. Seek this book out...it's a winner!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"A Mirror for Observers" by Edgar Pangborn was first published in 1954, and won the International Fantasy Award in 1955. In this story, Mars was dying 30,000 years ago, and the Martians moved to Earth. Remaining hidden, they observed the advances of Man and they wait for a time when they can be accepted by humanity. Some of the Martians, Abdicators, have grown dissatisfied with the idea of waiting and want to take the Earth for themselves. One young Earth boy, Angelo, becomes the center of attention for one of the Abdicators, Namir, as well as one of the Observers, Elmis.

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
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've wanted to read this book ever since I first read about it in David Pringle's "100 Best SF Novels"(1988). Well, I finally finished reading it last week. Mirror was originally published in 1954, and it's the 2nd novel by Edgar Pangborn, who's best remembered today for his 1960s novel, "Davy".

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.
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