And Then I Read: RUINS by Orson Scott Card

© Orson Scott Card, illustration by Sammy Yuen, Jr.

I’ve finally finished the second book in the “Pathfinder” series, after starting it before the first book, then reading that first book on my iPad. Getting back to this story, I felt I knew a lot more about the characters and their motivations, which helped me understand the relationships between them. Plotwise, I better understood the powers of the three time shifters and how they interacted, though that gets a lot more complicated in this book.

Rigg and his companions: sister Param, best friend Umbo, and former soldiers and friends Loaf and Olivenko have made it through the psychic barrier around their own section of the planet Garden, and into one where all the people are long dead. Only the artificial man Vadesh remains, an identical twin to the machine that Rigg once thought was his father. Vadesh seems tricky and unreliable, and despite their caution, the group falls for Vadesh’s plan to attach a symbiotic creature to Loaf’s face. Rigg manages to gain control of the buried colonizing space ship that began human life in this section or “Hold” of the planet (there are 18 more, one in each Hold), and also control of all the ships and all their artificial men. Or so he thinks. Eventually Loaf regains control of his own body and mind from the symbiont, and finds he has greatly enhanced senses, but has lost some of his humanity as well. The group decides to move on to the next Hold.

There they find a completely different scene, inhabited by ape-like humans, two of which offer to help them learn more about what’s really going on in Garden by giving them free access to their library. The library, and it seems much of this Hold are run using thousands of highly intelligent mice. Or are the mice really running things? That’s one of the mysteries Rigg and his friends must uncover. But the biggest threat to Garden is the impending arrival of new space ships from our own Earth, where the original colony ships came from. Apparently the mice have sent back messages from the near future telling of the complete destruction of Garden by the Earthers.

I enjoyed this book, though there’s a lot more talk and theorizing than action. I’ll certainly read the third and final volume when it comes out. The concepts and the complex use of time travel make this a good read more than the characters, who mostly seem less likeable in this book than the first. When the Earthers show up, it should get more interesting for everyone.

Recommended.

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