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by Orson scott Card


On its own, Earthborn is a decent novel. As a conclusion to the Homecoming series, I think it's disgraceful. After reading this, I found myself wishing that the series had ended with Earthfall. The ending to Earthfall was frustrating enough, but Earthborn only adds to the disappointment. An entirely new cast of characters is introduced, and the story is completely different, taking place on planet Earth many generations after the colonists of Harmony, led by feuding brothers Nafai and Ellemak, first landed. The number of new main characters is so large, their relationships so dense, that I won't bother describing them. I will just say that the story focuses on many social issues, in particular the racial tension that exists within a civilization consisting of humans, angels (descendents of bats), and diggers (descendents of rats.)

An interesting novel, but it resolves nothing. None of the conflicts that formed the basis of the other four novels are put to rest. None of the questions posed by Card are answered. In fact, after finishing the entire five-book series, I still don't know what the hell the Keeper of Earth is. (I believe the explanation is mentioned in some obscure paragraph within the novel, but I must have missed it. I don't normally miss things, but in this case…) Worst of all, Card never resolves the situation on Harmony. What happens to that planet? Was the entire journey that encompassed the first four books completely useless? For that matter, what happened to the Oversoul's mission? Nothing is resolved. Or rather, everything is resolved, but-I'm willing to bet-not in the way most people wanted.

So what was Card trying to do? I can only guess. Given the copious amount of moralizing and religious preaching that makes up this novel, it seems Card was trying to get his messages across but was too lazy (or too self-absorbed to consider what readers really enjoy) to remain faithful to the original story. In fact, like Children of the Mind, both novels suffer from the same overload of weepy pontification and lack of direction (though I like Earthborn better.)

The novel itself fortunately benefits from good insight into the characters and their development, which one can always depend upon Card for. The roles are not as delineated as before-characters that begin as heroes later become villains, who then become heroes. The conflicting parties all have their own rationales and agendas, each convincing and realistic in their own way, reflecting many of the problems in our own society.

But, taken as a book on its own, Earthborn still has many flaws. One is that Card seems to get tangled up in all his moralizing. I found many parts ridiculous and hypocritical. For instance, Akma, who is intolerant of a certain people because they hurt him in his childhood, is encouraged by others to develop a fairer, more tolerant perspective of things. When he refuses, protesting against what he believes is injustice, he is punished-in a very big way. (I won't say how, because this is essentially the book's climax.) Yes, I agree that he deserves it for some of the things he does in the book, but not for the reasons given by those bestowing the punishment-since they are obviously just as intolerant of his views as himself.

I always thought the Homecoming series would end in an epic fashion. (Actually, if I had my way, I'd name the last two books The Fall of Earth and The Rise of Earth. I'd keep the story line of the first three books but change that of the last two, to make it a more satisfying finale.) Sadly, Card seems to have deserted the series with this book, resorting instead to the excessive preaching described above that he seems to do so often nowadays.

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