Pastwatch: The Flood Hardcover – Jan 1996
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Anyone who's read Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong knows about the devastating consequences that Columbus's voyage and ensuing colonization had on the native people of the Americas and Africa. In a thought-provoking work that is part science fiction, part historical drama, Orson Scott Card writes about scientists in a fearful future who study that tragic past, then attempt to actually intervene and change it into something better.
Tagiri and Hassan are members of Pastwatch, an academic organization that uses machines to see into the past and record it. Their project focuses on slavery and its dreadful effects, and gradually evolves into a study of Christopher Columbus. They eventually marry and their daughter Diko joins them in their quest to discover what drove Columbus west.
Columbus, with whom readers become acquainted through both images in the Pastwatch machines and personal narrative, is portrayed as a religious man with both strengths and weaknesses, a charismatic leader who sometimes rose above but often fell beneath the mores of his times. As usual, Orson Scott Card uses his formidable writing skills to create likable, complex characters who face gripping problems; he also provides an entertaining and thoughtful history lesson in Pastwatch. --Bonnie Bouman --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Playing with the time stream isn't new to science fiction, but Card (Ender's Game), who's won both a Hugo and a Nebula, gives the concept a new twist here-with mixed results. His angle is to make the temporal interference not accidental but intentional, as a group of scientists go back in time to alter Columbus's journey. Sponsored by the organization Pastwatch, which uses a machine called TruSite II to view the past in remarkable detail, the "Columbus Project" is headed by Tagiri, whose TruSite viewing of the horrors of slavery has prompted her to revise the famed explorer's agenda. Tagiri sends into the past her daughter, Diko, a Mayan descendent named Hunahpu and a man named Kemal, a prickly sort whose initial skepticism is transformed into a fierce commitment to change the past. Armed with devices from the future, the three return to 1492, determined to transform Columbus from a gold-seeking pirate into a proponent of world peace and global unity. Uniformly well-meaning, the trio is just too sanctified to believe, and in their hands, the complexities of temporal mechanics are boiled down to simplistic cause and effect. Some sparks are generated when the Pastwatchers finally meet Columbus, but even that encounter produces fewer surprises than you'd expect from a master like Card.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
A few scientists use machines to delve into the past, trying to understand how humanity reached such a pass. These are the focus of Card's "Pastwatch" One, Tagiri, highly sensitive to the suffering of others, sees the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus and the enslavement and slaughter of the indigenous people, as the major significant event.
Discovering the strange vision that committed Columbus to his course she and her team begin to wonder if it's possible to change history - even though they know that change will not guarantee a better world and will cancel their own.
Card explores his themes through alternate narratives - Columbus' world and Tagiri's. The future is the more intriguing, especially as Tagiri's team learns the past has already been disrupted, with disastrous results. It takes a while for the Pastwatchers to jump back to Columbus' era but Card is one of Sci-Fi's best writers (winner of both the Nebula and Hugo Awards) and he keeps the pace moving.
A well-developed story with real characters and plenty of the paradoxes and moral dilemmas that make sci-fi more than space opera.
My own reactions are mixed, but net favorable.
Some of the character's attitude changes were unrealistic to me because they happened so speedily. For instance, we have Kemal acting as a sarcastic and even acid skeptic to the Columbus project becoming contrite in one paragraph due to Tagiri's respect for human free will. Kemal does, however, resume his thorn-in-the-side temperament soon after. I also found Columbus'complete change of heart in Haiti a bit rapid. Even with the inimitable help of See in the Dark. In fact, I do find credibility gaps in all of Card's texts, but I do not consider them necessarily harmful. Often these gaps stir
For in spite of the historical overtones, 'Pastwatch' is about time travel. Future historians lay the blame for their ruined planet at the foot of global evils such as slavery. While appreciating the complex causality of our world, their technology lets them zoom in on Columbus's expansion of Europe's cultural boundaries as crucial. If he could be dissuaded from his momentous voyage, the Pastwatchers consider, we should surely erase slavery from our troubled past. 'Pastwatch' tells the story of their struggle with new data and with conscience; satisfactorily, it also tells us how, why and what they conclude.
Card writes so competently that his storytelling never interferes with the story. The result is an emotionally transformative experience, but also an insightful one. Civilized values are laid on the table so expertly that the reader can only take them to heart. To read 'Pastwatch' is to catalogue great virtues of humanity, whom Card redeems alongside Columbus. Let us, like the Pastwatchers, work to keep redemption within the pages of great books.
Most recent customer reviews
Big disappointment, so boring I couldn't finish it. I usually enjoy this author's books, but this one was so boring I couldn't even finish it. Read morePublished on July 5 2014 by Emerald
"Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus", like its titular character, could be called a lot of different things. Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by R. Seehausen
Orson Scott Card has a talent for finding interesting stories to tell and for filling them with profound thoughts. Read morePublished on April 12 2004 by _
Card shows brilliance and great insight in a futuristic tale that has a group of researchers studying history by having a viewer into the literal events of the past. Read morePublished on April 9 2004 by Michael A. Newman
Card's revision of history in this book is fairly engaging -- I certainly didn't quit reading before the end -- but I found it ultimately unsatisfying. Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2004 by Swiss Demon
Futuristic setting: check, Highly Intelligent Protagonist: Check, Religious Undertones: Check, Historical References: Check, sounds like "Pastwatch: The Redemption of... Read morePublished on Dec 4 2003 by Jakub Blaykowski
I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished it late last night. I don't know the story of Columbus well enough, or even the Columbus myth well enough, to... Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2003 by Jedidiah Carosaari
Card is famous for weaving fascinating metaphysical and philosophical questions into page-turning narratives. Read morePublished on Nov. 13 2003 by D. Cloyce Smith
Lots of contemporary writers can regard themselves as successful writers of fiction. Few can regard themselves as writers of truly *intelligent* fiction. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2003 by Godly Gadfly