• Songmaster
  • Songmaster


4.3 19
by Orson Scott Card

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An SF classic from the author of Ender's Game.

Kidnapped at an early age, the young singer Ansset has been raised in isolation at the mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life has been filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any heard before. Ansset's voice is both a blessing and a curse, for the

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An SF classic from the author of Ender's Game.

Kidnapped at an early age, the young singer Ansset has been raised in isolation at the mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life has been filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any heard before. Ansset's voice is both a blessing and a curse, for the young Songbird can reflect all the hopes and fears his auidence feels and, by magnifying their emotions, use his voice to heal--or to destroy. When it is discovered that his is the voice that the Emperor has waited decades for, Ansset is summoned to the Imperial Palace on Old Earth. Many fates rest in Ansset's hands, and his songs will soon be put to the test: either to salve the troubled conscience of a conqueror, or drive him, and the universe, into mad chaos.

Songmaster is a haunting story of power and love--the tale of the man who would destroy everything he loves to preserve humanity's peace, and the boy who might just sing the world away.

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Editorial Reviews

Gene Wolfe
Card understands the human condition and has things of real value to say about it. He tells the truth well—ultimately the only criterion of greatness.
Science Fiction Review on Songmaster
Orson Scott Card is a fine writer, with great insight, great idealism and love.
Library Journal
Card here offers the tale of Ansset, a young boy whose perfect singing voice has the power of amplifying people's emotions, making him both a potential healer and destroyer. This is the first hardcover incarnation of the 1988 award-winning novel.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.78(d)

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SONGMASTER (Chapter 1:)

There were many ways a child could turn up in the baby market of Doblay-Me. Many children, of course, were genuine orphans, though now that wars had ended with Mikal's Peace orphanhood was a social position much less often achieved. Others had been sold by desperate parents who had to have money—or who had to have a child out of their way and hadn't the heart for murder. More were bastards from worlds and nations where religion or custom forbade birth control. And others slipped in through the cracks.

Ansset was one of these when a seeker from the Songhouse found him. He had been kidnapped and the kidnappers had panicked, opting for the quick profit from the baby trade instead of the much riskier business of arranging for ransom and exchange. Who were his parents? They were probably wealthy, or their child wouldn't have been worth kidnapping. They were white, because Ansset was extremely fair-skinned and blond. But there were trillions of people answering to that description, and no government agency was quite so foolish as to assume the responsibility of returning him to his family.

So Ansset, whose age was unknowable but who couldn't be more than three years old, was one of a batch of a dozen children that the seeker brought back to Tew. All the children had responded well to few simple tests—pitch recognition, melody repetition, and emotional response. Well enough, in fact, to be considered potential musical prodigies. And the Songhouse had bought—no, no, people are not bought in the baby market—the Songhouse had adopted them all. Whether they became Songbirds or mere singers, masters or teachers, or even if they did not work out musically at all, the Songhouse raised them, provided for them, cared about them for life. In loco parentis, said the law. The Songhouse was mother, father, nurse, siblings, offspring, and, until the children reached a certain level of sophistication, God.

"New," sang a hundred young children in the Common Room, as Ansset and his fellow marketed children were ushered in. Ansset did not stand out from the others. True, he was terrified—but so were the rest. And while his nordic skin and hair put him at the extreme end of the racial spectrum, such things were studiously ignored and no one ridiculed him for it, any more than they would have ridiculed an albino.

Routinely he was introduced to the other children; routinely all forgot his name as soon as they heard it; routinely they sang a welcome whose tone and melody were so confused that it did nothing to allay Ansset's fear; routinely Ansset was assigned to Rruk, a five-year-old who knew the ropes.

"You can sleep by me tonight," Rruk said, and Ansset dumbly nodded. "I'm older," Rruk said. "In maybe a few months or sometime soon anyway I get a stall." This meant nothing to Ansset. "Anyway, don't piss in your bed because we never get the same one two nights in a row."

Ansset's three-year-old pride was enough to take umbrage at this. "Don't piss in bed." But he didn't sound angry—just afraid.

"Good. Some of 'em are so scared they do."

It was near bedtime; new children were always brought in near bedtime. Ansset asked no questions. When he saw that other children were undressing, he too undressed. When he saw that they found nightgowns under their blankets, he too found a nightgown and put it on, though he was clumsy at it. Rruk tried to help him, but Ansset shrugged off the offer. Rruk looked momentarily hurt, then sang the love song to him.

I will never hurt you.

I will always help you.

If you are hungry

I'll give you my food.

If you are frightened

I am your friend.

I love you now.

And love does not end.

The words and concepts were beyond Ansset, but the tone of voice was not. Rruk's embrace on his shoulder was even more clear, and Ansset leaned on Rruk, though he still said nothing and did not cry.

"Toilet?" Rruk asked.

Ansset nodded, and Rruk led him to a large room adjoining the Common, where water ran swiftly through trenches. It was there that he learned that Rruk was a girl. "Don't stare," she said. "Nobody stares without permission." Again, Ansset did not understand the words, but the tone of voice was clear. He understood the tone of voice instinctively, as he always had; it was his greatest gift, to know emotions even better than the person feeling them.

"How come you don't talk except when you're mad?" Rruk asked him as they lay down in adjoining beds (as a hundred other children also lay down).

It was now that Ansset's control broke. He shook his head, then turned away, buried his face under the blankets, and cried himself to sleep. He did not see the other children around him who looked at him with distaste. He did not know that Rruk was humming a tune that meant, "Let be, let alone, let live."

He did know, however, when Rruk patted his back, and he knew that the gesture was kind; and this was why he never forgot his first night in the Songhouse and why he could never feel anything but love for Rruk, though he would soon far surpass her rather limited abilities.

"Why do you let Rruk hang around you so much, when she isn't even a Breeze?" asked a fellow student once, when Ansset was six. Ansset did not answer in words. He answered with a song that made the questioner break Control, much to his humiliation, and weep openly. No one else ever challenged Rruk's claim on Ansset. He had no friends, not really, but his song for Rruk was too powerful to challenge.

SONGMASTER Copyright © 1978, 1979, 1980, 1987 by Orson Scott Card

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Songmaster 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've always been a fan of Orson Scott Card (that is, until I read The Folk of the Fringe) and this was not the first book of his that I read. I read this after I read the Ender Saga, the Earth Saga, Pastwatch, and many others. And yet, this remains one of my favorite. This is perhaps his most emotionally charged of all his novels, it has elements that are absent from his more popular fiction. And I think that is a pity, because even though this book can become so caught up in morality that it can become hard to read, there are moments so full of emotion that you can't put it down and you simply can't stop thinking about it. So even while this book lacks the readability of Ender's Game and the engrossing plot of Pastwatch, this book has a creativity and a flow of raw emotion that sets this book apart from the others: here we have a book that is pure and emotional, and yet complex, which requires a certain thoughtfulness and and pondering to truly appreciate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a peak point in the written word. if card had added anything more to this book it would have been to much. He manipulates your fear and love makes you lagh and cry in the same breath. This is quite possibly the best book i have ever read in my life. the description and raw emotion is breathtaking and the concept of the plot something to be applauded on. i have also read all of the authors books and love Ansset just as much as Ender. A read that was pure nirvana and leaves you in awe for days. congratulations mr. card!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book as a teen- 20 years ago. It is still one of my favorite books of all time.
lanalucy More than 1 year ago
This was one of four or five books that I started the year with, all reading at the same time, in different spots in my home. Once I got past the first chapter or two, I felt compelled to finish this, to the exclusion of others. Songmaster is set in a world with Earth, but significantly different from the world we know. Earth is both the armpit of the universe and the home of the Emperor of Everything. What a dichotomy! Earth is a government of continents, not countries, and the US is divided into Western and Eastern America. Some American nameplaces are familiar, and a few references are made to other places on Earth. Communication at its best is done by Singers, and Singers are trained in the Songhouse on Tew, which is a planet. People still talk, but Singing communicates at a subconscious or subsonic level and affects people's feelings, attitudes, actions. Frankly, I'd hate to live in a world where I could not sing (I CAN sing, but you really don't want to have to listen to it), even to myself. In this world, only Singers can sing (unless you are very small and don't know better), and you can only become a Singer by being raised in the Songhouse. OK, enough about that. The book follows main character Ansett, a supremely gifted Singer, from his beginning as he is separated from his mother, to his death, and slightly beyond, in vignettes, some longer, some shorter. Details are never glossed over, but neither are unimportant things included. I don't need to know the minutiae of his life, endlessly recycled, to know that three years have passed. You understand? At times I found myself identifying with Ansett. He was by turns pampered and abused, praised and vilified. I was able to get into his skin, so to speak, and memories would scamper across my mind, much too quickly to be conscious, but passing through and leaving food for contemplation. Reading this was similar to reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein many years ago. I find myself mentally chewing on something days after reading, and learning things about myself I did not know. Orson Scott Card is famous for his Ender books in particular. I've read Ender's Game, which left me glad I'd read it, though I was confused throughout. I've tried reading other Orson Scott Card books and been unable to get into them. Without a doubt, he has a way with words, and sometimes, my brain is just not ready for that train yet. If you've liked other Orson Scott Card books, I recommend this one without reservation. If you've never tried an Orson Scott Card book, this might be a good one to start with. P.S. Others have tagged this gay fantasy or gay romance, and though it does exist in this book, it's mentioned in passing, in a chapter or two, definitely not part of the main plot. If you're not into that, this shouldn't discourage you from reading this book, and if you are, just remember, it's a very small part of Ansett's life. Personally, I loved that it was so casually a part of the background, and not overthought.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought this was one of Cards best books. and I have read alot of his work. I can tell by some of the other reviews that some people might have trouble understanding this book. this book is very powerful and full of emotion, however it may not be suitable for children.
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schnutzy More than 1 year ago
I read for fun, I don't analize books, look for the meaning of anything. I read for the enjoyment. This book however had me going back and re-reading passages. I was surpirsed that some parts of this book made me cry. In some areas I found myself comparing a novel with life today. It is a well written, wonderful, book and I hope you enjoy reading it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
...This novel is one of the best examples why some stories should never be made into a movie, none could ever do it justice. Some ideas can only be seen, and in this case, heard in your mind... and not for lack of wanting. I found myself more attached to young Ansset, then any other Card character I have yet to some across.. and after reading 'Ender's Game', that in itself is a feat. This story is an emotional roller coaster of the best kind, and will continually keep you guessing their motives and intentions. The author is truly in his element, blending science fiction with human behavior. He portrays the love and hate of boy by all those around him with no caution or consequence. This is a powerful and complete novel, and has my highest respect.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was sort of disappointed by this Card novel. Most of his later work has such 'rounded' plots, where everything makes sense to the motion of the final plot, but this sort of wanders.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was completely SICKENING. Just when you think my word, I never thought Card would be so twisted, he exploits another grotesque weakness of man and threads that fiber into this book. It starts out oddly enough - it took a while to get the hang of nearly everyone 'singing' all the time, and communicating extreme details without words. Okay, that's odd, but not yet twisted. Weave in bizarre sexual and physical abuse, homosexuality, and graphic violence, and I started wondering if he was an admirer of Stephen King!! At times you have to re-read passages to make sure you understood what he was saying. I had looked forward to reading this, because of the author, and the synopsis sounded interesting, and the topic - music is such an important part of life. How could he take such a potential for good, and make it completely depressing and dark. I had previously read two (more recent) books by Card, and thoroughly loved them. They were in a completely different tone and body. I didn't think he was capable of this. I am SO disappointed. My copy isn't going to charity or the local library - it's in the trash, where such smut belongs.