Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Memory of Earth

MemoryThe Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card

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After being amazed with both Ender’s Game and Empire, I realized that I needed to read more by Orson Scott Card.  I had already read Seventh Son and not been all that impressed, so I didn’t return to that series.  Instead, I decided to start with the Homecoming series, of which The Memory of Earth is the first book.  I’m glad to say that the fourth time was the charm for me, in Card’s case.

Harmony is the name of a world where the citizens there live with some modern technologies, such as anti-gravity mechanisms and computers, but without the more prominent ones, such as automobiles, airplanes, and weapons.  The reason this is the case is because of the Oversoul, the spiritual guide for the planet who keeps the citizens of Harmony harmonious by preventing them from thinking of certain things.  The Oversoul is, in fact, a large satellite that orbits Harmony and feeds visions and prophecies to the people to guide them, and also “makes them stupid” whenever they start to think about forbidden subjects.  This has worked for millennia, but after many hundreds of thousands of years, the Oversoul is breaking down, and is forced to reveal itself to a small group of people on Harmony in order to save itself and Harmony.  The Memory of Earth is the story of how the Oversoul recruits this family for its purposes.

I really enjoyed this book, partly because it makes a firm statement about the usefulness of faith.  Even though the religion is constructed and maintained through artificial means, the story tells us that the faith is what allows the family to survive amidst all the chaos that goes with being the chosen ones for the Oversoul.  Others doubt their visions and their pleas, but their faith carries them through all of this, and they persevere through the hard times.  It sounds heavy-handed, and at some points in the story, it can be, but for the most part Card manages to make these elements more thematic than part of the plot.  There were some key points where the characters’ faith in the Oversoul leads them through some difficult times, but other than that, the decisions are theirs to make, and it’s their decisions that carry the plot forward.

For whatever reason, I have a soft spot for stories that play on religious conventions, so that may have some bearing on why I liked the novel so much.  Still, Card is deft at developing a plot of intrigue, which is right on par with the same sort of plot that he developed for Empire.  His characters ring true, and I noticed particularly in the last quarter of the novel that the four brothers who had to work together to carry out the Oversoul’s wishes not only had distinct personalities, but they also had distinct voices.  It was easy to tell just from the dialogue who was speaking, and it was done so well that it actually jarred me from the story enough for me to appreciate it.

The theme of the story may not be for everyone, but Card is a natural at storytelling, and I really think that one can get so caught up in the story itself so as to forgive the heavy-handedness of the theme.  I’m eager to see where the story goes in the next four volumes of the series.

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February 7, 2007 - Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews

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