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Pathfinder    by Orson Scott Card order for
by Orson Scott Card
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder (which looks like the first in a series), the main story follows the adventures of young Rigg and his friends on the planet Garden, as they discover they have unique talents with practical applications. The chapters in which all this develops are introduced by an account of the journey (through both space and time) of a colonization ship from a dying Earth to Garden, and of the starship pilot, Ram Odin, whose own special ability starts it all. While the other colonists sleep, Ram has for company expendables engineered to 'outlive and outwork any human.'

Rigg grows up in the wilderness with Father, trapping animals for their furs and talking about everything under the sun. Rigg has a very special talent - he can see the passages of living creatures' pasts (except for Father's) as 'thin shimmering trails in the air', their color distinguishing their age. Father has nurtured Rigg's talent and encouraged him to refine it, while giving him a formidable education, from languages and banking to mathematics and astronomy. When Rigg is thirteen, Father is pinned under a tree, but makes Rigg promise not to look at his corpse. He tells Riggs to go and find his sister (it's news to the boy that he has one) and that Nox (who owns a rooming house in the village) will tell him where she is.

Nox tells Rigg that his mother is Hagia Sessamin, head of the royal family of the Sessamoto Empire (deposed in the People's Revolution), and gives him a fortune in jewels from Father. Rigg leaves the area with his friend Umbo, who turns out to have an important talent too - Umbo can manipulate time. En route to Aressa Sessamo, they're joined by an ex-soldier named Loaf, who shares their adventures. There are captures and escapes. Rigg is taken as a prisoner by General Citizen to the capital, while his friends follow. Rigg quickly learns that there are factions that want him dead as well as one that might want to put him on a throne. Survival will be a challenge.

But Rigg has been well schooled and manipulates others to keep himself alive. He finds his sister Param (who also has a talent that has helped her to survive) and manages to get her out of the capital with his friends' help, enemies in close pursuit. Rigg has learned that Garden is divided by nineteen impenetrable (trying to go through results in insanity) Walls. Joined by a new follower, young scholar/soldier Olivenko, Rigg, his sister, and their friends seek to leave their wallfold - they succeed by combining all their special abilities.

Card has tons of fun with the philosophy and practice of time travel in Pathfinder, telling us at the end that he chose to embrace rather than avoid time paradox. That and the ongoing, engaging banter - between Ram and the expendables, and between Rigg and his quest companions - drive the story. It ends on a new mission for Rigg and his friends - a race against time to shut down all the Walls on Garden. While this series will be a big hit with the teens to whom it is addressed, adult SF fans will enjoy it equally. I look forward to more.

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