Review: The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card

Rating:

The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card
1990, Tor

Review Summary: I was surprised and disappointed by the execution of the story, actually. In reading the forward, I realize that the book is actually a collection of short stories and a novel Card wrote between 1978 and 1982, and that the idea is admittedly one of Card’s first attempts at science fiction, but it seemed very, very rough.

Full Review:

I was surprised and disappointed by the execution of the story, actually. In reading the forward, I realize that the book is actually a collection of short stories and a novel Card wrote between 1978 and 1982, and that the idea is admittedly one of Card’s first attempts at science fiction, but it seemed very, very rough. It wasn’t until the last third of the book that the pace and the interest started picking up for me, but unfortunately the ending just wasn’t quite enough to justify the collation of these works as a complete novel.

I think there are just too many themes running through these stories, and the connecting thread isn’t really strong enough or fascinating enough to tie everything together. Card’s overall message, obvious but unsaid throughout most of the novel, is a good one – that without pain there is no real capacity for joy or triumph, without the real possibility of suffering and failure, there is no chance for heroism and sacrifice. The better, shining examples of what humans can rise to be in adversity cannot be obtained without that adversity. Even the day-to-day courage of the human struggling to make ends meet in less heroic conditions seems to lose something of its edge, when there is no pain or hunger, or rather when those pains and hungers are soon soothed away and forgotten.

The overall message is overly muddled, however. Faint echoes of responsibility towards those who are suddenly suffering without explanation, vague examples of corrupt moral and sexual behavior blamed on the ephemeral immortality granted by a certain kind of drug, brief discussions of the dangerous line a person occasionally finds him or herself edging towards or away from, between humanity and godhood, and the very human mix of familial anger, guilt, and love; All of these are worthy topics on their own, but none of them are dealt with in any kind of depth, and so the overall effect of the novel is of shallowness, a brief skimming or touching of the real substances, similar to the lives of the sleepers, skipping through time and life, but never really touching the real meaning or feeling of life.

I can’t help but compare this work to Ender’s Game and Card’s parallel novel Ender’s Shadow, which likewise touch briefly on a number of different themes and subjects, but each of which is a much more “complete” work in that everything ties together and each reference has a direct and understandable relation to the story as a whole. I think perhaps the overall set of themes Card was trying to address should be taken specifically as loose collection of stories, not meant to encompass the whole, or else should be drastically expanded beyond the single novel to a set of novels. The material is there, I think, and could be addressed adequately by the more mature and talented Card.

09/04/06 CSL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *