Orson Scott Card
Simon Pulse, 2012
Have you ever read a book that was almost compulsively readable yet you can’t decided whether it was good or not? For me Orson Scott Card’s Ruins is such a book. Picking up almost immediately after 2011’s Pathfinder, Ruins continues the journey of Rigg, Umbo, and Param as they search for the truth behind the world of Garden and uncover the mysteries of the Walls which segregate it. Rigg, as readers learn in Pathfinder, has the ability to see the paths of the past, where living creatures have left an imprint on the world. Trained by a machine-man to be able to read people and societies Rigg departed on a journey that saw him join up with several other children who have abilities similar to his. The interaction of the time manipulation powers of Rigg, Umbo, and Param allows them to cross the previously impenetrable border between their home and the next wallfold. This is where Ruins picks up as the three powered teens along with the soldier/scholar Olivenko and Loaf begin to explore their second wallfold.
Where Pathfinder was a novel that moved at a brisk pace thanks to Rigg’s exploration of his home and long journey Ruin’s, despite its fresh new wallfold, feels a whole lot slower. Pathfinder was a novel that spent a lot of time introducing the world, exploring the peoples and cultures of the wallfold, and letting the reader slowly discovery the secrets of its creation and Rigg’s mysterious power. There is very little introspection in Pathfinder and the characters find themselves threatened and forced to act as a result. In Ruins, with that threat now removed, there is plenty of time for introspection amongst the various characters and the novel spends a lot of time carefully defining the group dynamics of the novel’s protagonists. In my opinion the novel suffers as a result. Pathfinder’s sense of discovery was one its biggest attractions for me and that sense of mystery and wonder is what really kept me going. In Ruins those sensations are still there but often take a backseat to both external and internal dialogue. Ruins introduces readers to wonders and horrors alike but I felt like the impact of the novel’s revelations was constantly suborned by the infighting and personality clashes the plague its characters.
Card should definitely be complemented on his creation of the world in Ruins and his twisting implementation of causality remains integral to the story and, if anything, grows even more complex as new mysteries and new characters are revealed. Ruins was a novel wherein I constantly bounced between annoyed and enthralled. Where in Pathfinder the situation that the characters found themselves in saw them acting with maturity and grace Ruins reminds readers that these are teenagers, prone to uncertainty and doubt that frequently manifests in them lashing out at one another and those around them. It grows tiresome at times and definitely detracted greatly from the huge threat introduced in the novel.
For the most part I enjoyed Ruins but not as much as I enjoyed Pathfinder. I am still rather enthralled by Cards complex and fascinating world and will definitely be back to see more of it in future endeavors. Ruins progresses the characters quite a bit and each, through both experience and influence via third parties, changes quite a bit over the course of the novel and by the time the book is done seemed to have progressed to a more self-assured state. This series is still fairly unique amongst the fantasy-laden Young Adult market and remains an entertaining exploration of time travel.