Book Review: GateFather by Orson Scott Card

Having grown up on OSC, I’ve been surprised by the last few novels of his that I’ve read.

<Cue definition change of surprised to disappointed>

GatefatherFor those who don’t know much about the Mither Mage series, this is the third and final book in a trilogy about <surprise> brilliant kids, (it is an OSC novel afterall), Norse gods living on earth, magery, including some innovative ideas about transporting oneself or others through “gates” as well as elemental magic, a separate world called Westil which is connected to this world through gates, politics (again it’s OSC), and some obnoxiously immature dialogue.

There are some amazing ideas in this series, and this third installment has no shortage of them. Unfortunately the execution was a bit of a mess. Card falls into a trap with many of his novels of having his characters become “talking heads.” Nothing really happens, characters just get together and “talk” through the plot and what they are learning or think they should be doing. Its tedious and, for an author as prolific as Card, something I might expect more from a beginner novelist.

But that’s far from my biggest complaint about this novel.

The biggest issues I had was that there was NO CONFLICT.

Danny North is possessed by “the devil” in the end of the 2nd series, setting up a world of possibilities for this third installment, but none of them are explored. Instead, Danny as the devil just wants to have sex with girls and is ruder than normal. Sigh. Exhausted young man sleeping in a libraryThey need to figure out how to keep this devil from overtaking them, and they do. They need to pass beyond this life into death and figure out a way to return. They do. They need to help a child who has lost his inner self in his brother’s outer self. And <surprise> they do. They need to save a crucial character who died but who’s outer self was trapped in the character who killed her. And, of course, they do.

When obstacles are so easily overcome, it leads to a suspense-less read, one that dragged. A lot. If I hadn’t have purchased this as an audiobook and been stuck on a long road trip, this is one I wouldn’t have finished. Kudos to Card for some great ideas that were woven into this novel, unfortunately they were just never explored to any of their potential.

I remain an OSC fan, though I prefer his older works. Ender’s Game and The Worthing Saga are books I could reread a hundred times (and probably have) and never get sick of. I feel lately that Card is less inclined to explore the darkness in his characters or writing, and without that contrast it’s impossible to truly appreciate the light.

As Osho says,

A certain darkness is needed to see the stars.

I have a feeling Card still has a doozy of a novel in him somewhere, one that will reignite his place amongst the stars. This one just wasn’t it.


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