Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Memory of Earth

The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card is the first book in his Homecoming Saga.  People have been settled on the planet Harmony for millions of years, and everyone is in the care of the Oversoul, a kind of machine that "watches" over them from space and that they worship as a deity.  Its mission was to protect the people on Harmony from their own destruction, as their ancestors were the few survivors of the destruction of humankind on Earth, but its influence is beginning to weaken.  The Oversoul sends a vision to Wetchik, setting in motion events that may or may not save the city of Basilica.

I thought The Memory of Earth started off a little on the slow side, and the pace never really picked up too very much, but what did build throughout the book was intrigue.  There are murder plots, mysterious rituals, prophecies, and  the great mystery of the Oversoul.  The religious theme runs strong through the entire story - people who submit to the Oversoul are rewarded, and those who go against it are inevitably punished - but I didn't think it was necessarily preachy.  I've read that the series is based in part on The Book of Mormon (which is likely, since Card is a member of the Church of Latter-Day Saints), but I never felt like that was all I was getting out of the story (though since I'm not familiar with the Book of Mormon, it's also possible I just didn't have the frame of reference to make the parallels).

The story mainly follows Nafai, the youngest of a respected and wealthy man's four sons.  He is fourteen, and we see his struggles to be taken seriously and considered as a man.  It's obvious that he still has a lot of growing up to do, but throughout the book he does begin to gain a more confident sense of self, and starts to understand other people and the world around him in a much more mature way.  His interactions with the seer, Luet, are great evidence of this.  In the beginning, she's a silly young girl to him; the bastard child of a second-class non-citizen.  As she continues to be involved in the intrigues surrounding his family and the fate of the city, however, he begins to know her better and begins to have more of a respect for her and what she does.

There were some very good points in the story involving just Nafai and his brothers, but the scenes I enjoyed most of all were those with Luet.  I loved her character - her gift has made her a highly respected individual in the city, despite her young age, but she isn't cocky and has no sense of entitlement because of this.  She has complete faith in the Oversoul, but even though it communicates with her directly and often, she also has moments of uncertainty that make her feel very genuine to me.  She gets scared, but she pushes through that to do what she feels must be done, and to help those she feels she must - even if that ends up being Nafai, who has insulted her more than once, and often to her face.

Overall, I wasn't sure I would care much for this, partly because I am so against Card's personal politics.  I didn't love it, but I did enjoy The Memory of Earth, and I'm very interested to see how the story continues in the next book.  And for those of you who, like me, enjoy a good map, Card provides a few at the beginning of the book, along with a family tree diagram and a pronunciation guide for the names.




Series Info:  What came before this book?  What's next?
Homecoming Saga
* The Memory of Earth (Book 1)
- The Call of Earth (Book 2)

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  1. Honestly, I detest Card's personal politics as well (be as religious as you like, but don't be hateful dude), but I really like a lot of what he's written. Since you've started reading it, it's tempted me to do a reread myself.

    Have you read Ender's Game?

  2. Coren, nope! This was my first foray into Card. I know Ender's Game is the one most people have read, though, so I'll likely pick that one up soon if I find a copy that doesn't have a million creases in the spine. I'm picky with secondhand books, haha

  3. Well you spend so much on them I think you've earned the right =P