October 05, 2011
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
It starts out with a small prologue, that explains how the world has ended up in the not so distant future. We learn that many species and many humans have been wiped out but despite this, humanity has taken a turn. It has become, while not Utopian, a more understanding society, interested in learning from mistakes.
We then are shot into the past at a look at Christopher Columbus' life. It is just a little snippet and gives us an idea of the story to come. We also learn that someone has been watching this interatction of Colubus, someone from the future.
Tagiri is part of the project Pastwatch. Essentially, there are two different machines that researchers use for Pastwatch, Tempoview and the newer TruSite. Both machines allow researchers to look back in time. Tagiri is especially interested in the life of slaves, and becomes convinced that Christopher Columbus' voyage is what causes the more brutal slavery and killings in the America's.
She eventually marries and has a daughter, Diko, who joins her mother in her research of Columbus. Her father is also part of the team. In the course of their research they also are joined by Hunahpu and Kemal.
The researchers come to the conclusion that Columbus must be stopped, but also learn that the future has changed the past before. It is learned that originally Columbus went on a crusade to the East, not his journey to the West. A future pastwatcher plays the holy trinity to change his mind.
When time travel is finally invented in their time, it is decided that Kemal, Hunahpu and Diko will travel back in time to save history. They are shuttled to three different times in the Caribbean to set about their work.
Throughout the entire novel, chapters on Columbus's life and his original journey are written. It explains some of his past and his love of navigation. It also details to how he rose from being a Weaver's son, to being able to meet with Kings and Queens.
Overall I was very intrigued by this novel. Card writes believably and makes sure that even a non-scientific reader can understand his concepts. His writing style is very clear and detailed and you can picture in your head the scenes and people that he describes.
Pastwatch is also a very interesting concept because it is a believable invention. It is conceivable that in the future we may develop a machine like this. And if we did, would we use it to the same purposes. Tied into this are Card's views of the morals of the future. They give up their own future to improve the world before them, and that, in this time, is not very believable due to human greed and nature. But it is a wish that we could evolve so highly.
My only complaint on the novel is the ending. It doesn't really describe how much is changed, other than the ending of slavery, in this newly created future. I would have liked to know what the countries of the world were all doing, if the great World Wars had happened, etc. It seems like Card did his job of rewriting the past and didn't want to go further.
Published in 1996
398 pages plus 4 pages of sources