In one of the most powerful and thought-provoking novels of his remarkable career, Orson Scott Card interweaves a compelling portrait of Christopher Columbus with the story of a future scientist who believes she can alter human history from a tragedy of bloodshed and brutality to a world filled with hope and healing.
About the Author
Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead. Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win these two top prizes in consecutive years. There are seven other novels to date in The Ender Universe series. Card has also written fantasy: The Tales of Alvin Maker is a series of fantasy novels set in frontier America; his most recent novel, The Lost Gate, is a contemporary magical fantasy. Card has written many other stand-alone sf and fantasy novels, as well as movie tie-ins and games, and publishes an internet-based science fiction and fantasy magazine, Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show. Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, Card directs plays and teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and youngest daughter, Zina Margaret.
Hometown:Greensboro, North Carolina
Date of Birth:August 24, 1951
Place of Birth:Richland, Washington
Education:B.A. in theater, Brigham Young University, 1975; M.A. in English, University of Utah, 1981
Read an Excerpt
PASTWATCH (Chapter 1:The Governor)
There was only one time when Columbus despaired of making his voyage. It was the night of August 23, in the port of Las Palmas on Grand Canary Island.
After so many years of struggle, his three caravels had finally set sail from Palos, only to run into trouble almost at once. After so many priests and gentlemen in the courts of Spain and Portugal had smiled at him and then tried to destroy him behind his back, Columbus found it hard to believe that it wasn't sabotage when the rudder of the Pinta came loose and nearly broke. After all, Quintero, the owner of the Pinta, was so nervous about having his little ship go out on such a voyage that he had signed on as a common seaman, just to keep an eye on his property. And Pinzón told him privately that he had seen a group of men gathered at the stern of the Pinta just as they were setting sail. Pinzón fixed the rudder himself, at sea, but the next day it broke again. Pinzón was furious, but he vowed to Columbus that the Pinta would meet him at Las Palmas within days.
So confident was Columbus of Pinzón's ability and commitment to the voyage that he gave no more thought to the Pinta. He sailed with the Santa Maria and the Niña to the island of Gomera, where Beatrice de Bobadilla was governor. It was a meeting he had long looked forward to, a chance to celebrate his triumph over the court of Spain with one who had made it plain she longed for his success. But Lady Beatrice was not at home. And as he waited, day after day, he had to endure two intolerable things.
The first consisted of having to listen politely to the petty gentlemen of Beatrice's little court, who kept telling him the most appalling lies about how on certain bright days, from the island of Ferro, westernmost of the Canaries, one could see a faint image of a blue island on the western horizonas if plenty of ships had not already sailed that far west! But Columbus had grown skilled at smiling and nodding at the most outrageous stupidity. One did not survive at court without that particular skill, and Columbus had weathered not only the wandering courts of Ferdinand and Isabella, but also the more settled and deeply arrogant court of John of Portugal. And after waiting decades to win the ships and men and supplies and, above all, the permission to make this voyage, he could endure a few more days of conversation with stupid gentlemen. Though he sometimes had to grind his teeth not to point out how utterly useless they must be in the eyes of God and everyone else, if they could find nothing better to do with their lives than wait about in the court of the governor of Gomera when she was not even at home. No doubt they amused Beatriceshe had shown a keen appreciation of the worthlessness of most men of the knightly class when she conversed with Columbus at the royal court at Santa Fé. No doubt she skewered them constantly with ironic barbs which they did not realize were ironic.
More intolerable by far was the silence from Las Palmas. He had left men there with instructions to tell him as soon as Pinzón managed to bring the Pinta into port. But no word came, day after day, as the stupidity of the courtiers became more insufferable, until finally he refused to tolerate either of the intolerables a moment longer. Bidding a grateful adiós to the gentlemen of Gomera, he set sail for Las Palmas himself, only to find when he arrived on the twenty-third of August that the Pinta was still not there.
The worst possibilities immediately came to mind. The saboteurs were so grimly determined not to complete the voyage that there had been a mutiny, or they had somehow persuaded Pinzón to turn around and sail for Spain. Or they were adrift in the currents of the Atlantic, getting swept to some unnameable destination. Or pirates had taken themor the Portuguese, who might have thought they were part of some foolish Spanish effort to poach on their private preserve along the coasts of Africa. Or Pinzón, who clearly thought himself better suited to lead the expedition than Columbus himselfthough he would never have been able to win royal sponsorship for such an expedition, having neither the education, the manners, nor the patience that it had requiredmight have had the foolish notion of sailing on ahead, reaching the Indies before Columbus.
All of these were possible, and from one moment to the next each seemed likely. Columbus withdrew from human company that night and threw himself to his kneesnot for the first time, but never before with such anger at the Almighty. "I have done all you set for me to do," he said, "I have pushed and pleaded, and never once have you given me the slightest encouragement, even in the darkest times. Yet my trust never failed, and at last I got the expedition on the exact terms that were required. We set sail. My plan was good. The season was right. The crew is skilled even if they think themselves better sailors than their commander. All I needed now, all that I needed, after everything I've endured till now, was for something to go right."
Was this too bold a thing for him to say to the Lord? Probably. But Columbus had spoken boldly to powerful men before, and so the words spilled easily from his heart to flow from his tongue. God could strike him down for it if he wantedColumbus had put himself in God's hands years before, and he was weary.
"Was that too much for you, most gracious Lord? Did you have to take away my third ship? My best sailor? Did you even have to deprive me of the kindness of Lady Beatrice? It is obvious that I have not found favor in your eyes, O Lord, and therefore I urge you to find somebody else. Strike me dead if you want, it could hardly be worse than killing me by inches, which seems to be your plan at this moment. I'll tell you what. I will stay in your service for one more day. Send me the Pinta or show me what else you want me to do, but I swear by your most holy and terrible name, I will not sail on such a voyage with fewer than three ships, well equipped and fully crewed. I've become an old man in your service, and as of tomorrow night, I intend to resign and live on whatever pension you see fit to provide me with." Then he crossed himself. "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Having finished this most impious and offensive prayer, Columbus could not sleep until at last, no less angry than before, he flung himself out of bed and knelt again.
"Nevertheless thy will not mine be done!" he said furiously. Then he climbed back into bed and promptly fell asleep.
The next morning the Pinta limped into port. Columbus took it as the final confirmation that God really was still interested in the success of this voyage. Very well, thought Columbus. You didn't strike me dead for my disrespect, Lord; instead you sent me the Pinta. Therefore I will prove to you that I am still your loyal servant.
He did it by working half the citizens of Las Palmas, or so it seemed, into a frenzy. The port had plenty of carpenters and caulkers, smiths and cordwainers and sailmakers, and it seemed that all of them were pressed into service on the Pinta. Pinzón was full of defiant apologiesthey had been adrift for nearly two weeks before he was finally able, by brilliant seamanship, to bring the Pinta into exactly the port he had promised. Columbus was still suspicious, but didn't show it. Whatever the truth was, Pinzón was here now, and so was the Pinta, complete with a rather sullen Quintero. That was good enough for Columbus.
And as long as he had the attention of the shipworkers of Las Palmas, he finally bullied Juan Niño, the owner of the Niña, into changing from his triangular sails to the same square rigging as the other caravels, so they'd all be catching the same winds and, God willing, sailing together to the court of the great Khan of China.
It took only a week to have all three ships in better shape than they had been in upon leaving Palos, and this time there were no unfortunate failures of vital equipment. If there had been saboteurs before, they were no doubt sobered by the fact that both Columbus and Pinzón seemed determined to sail on at all costsnot to mention the fact that now if the expedition failed, they might end up stranded on the Canary Islands, with little prospect of returning anytime soon to Palos.
And so gracious was God in answering Columbus's impudent prayer that when at last he sailed into Gomera for the final resupply of his ships, the banner of the governor was flying above the battlements of the castle of San Sebastián.
Any fears he might have had that Beatrice de Bobadilla no longer held him in high esteem were removed at once. When he was announced, she immediately dismissed all the other gentlemen who had so condescended to Columbus the week before. "Cristóbal, my brother, my friend!" she cried. When he had kissed her hand she led him from the court to a garden, where they sat in the shade of a tree and he told her of all that had transpired since they last met at Santa Fé.
She listened, rapt, asking intelligent questions and laughing at his tales of the hideous interference the king had visited upon Columbus almost as soon as he had signed the capitulations. "Instead of paying for three caravels, he dredged up some ancient offense that the city of Palos had committedsmuggling, no doubt"
"The primary industry of Palos for many years, I'm told," said Beatrice.
"And as their punishment, he required them to pay a fine of exactly two caravels."
"I'm surprised he didn't make them pay for all three," said Beatrice. "He's a hard loaf, dear old Ferdinand. But he did pay for a war without going bankrupt. And he has just expelled the Jews, so it isn't as if he has anybody to borrow from."
"The irony is that seven years ago, the Duke of Sidonia would have bought me three caravels from Palos out of his own treasury, if the crown had not refused him permission."
"Dear old Enriquehe's always had far more money than the crown, and he just can't understand why that doesn't make him more powerful than they are."
"Anyway, you can imagine how glad they were to see me in Palos. And then, to make sure both cheeks were well slapped, he issued a proclamation that any man who agreed to join my expedition would win a suspension of any civil and criminal actions pending against him."
"Oh, yes. You can imagine what that did to the real sailors of Palos. They weren't going to sail with a bunch of criminals and debtorsor run the risk of people thinking that they had needed such a pardon."
"His Majesty no doubt imagined that it would take such an incentive to persuade anyone to sail with you on your mad adventure."
"Yes, well, his 'help' nearly killed the expedition from the start."
"Sohow many felons and paupers are there in your crew?"
"None, or at least none that we know of. Thank God for Martin Pinzón."
"Oh, yes, a man of legend."
"You know of him?"
"All the sailors' lore comes to the Canaries. We live by the sea."
"He caught the vision of the thing. But once he noised it about that he was going, we started to get recruits. And it was his friends who ended up risking their caravels on the voyage."
"Not free of charge, of course."
"They hope to be rich, at least by their standards."
"As you hope to be rich by yours."
"No, my lady. I hope to be rich by your standards."
She laughed and touched his arm. "Cristóbal, how good it is to see you again. How glad I am that God chose you to be his champion in this war against the Ocean Sea and the court of Spain."
Her remark was light, but it touched on a matter quite tender: She was the only one who knew that he had undertaken his voyage at the command of God. The priests of Salamanca thought him a fool, but if he had ever breathed a word of his belief in God's having spoken to him, they would have branded him a heretic and that would have brought an end to more than Columbus's plan for an expedition to the Indies. He had not meant to tell her, either; he had not meant to tell anyone, had not even told his brother Bartholomew, nor his wife Felipa before she died, nor even Father Perez at La Rábida. Yet after only an hour in the company of Lady Beatrice, he had told her. Not all, of course. But that God had chosen him, had commanded him to make this voyage, he told her that much.
Why had he told her? Perhaps because he knew implicitly that he could trust her with his life. Or perhaps because she looked at him with such piercing intelligence that he knew that no other explanation than the truth would convince her. Even so, he had not told her the half of it, for even she would have thought him mad.
And she did not think him mad, or if she did, she must have some special love of madmen. A love that continued even now, to a degree beyond his hopes. "Stay the night with me, my Cristóbal," she said.
"My lady," he answered, unsure if he had heard aright.
"You lived with a common woman named Beatrice in Córdoba. She had your child. You can't pretend to be living a monkish life."
"I seem doomed to fall under the spell of ladies named Beatrice. And none of them has been, by any stretch of the imagination, a common woman."
Lady Beatrice laughed lightly. "You managed to compliment your old lover and one who would be your new one, both at once. No wonder you were able to win your way past the priests and scholars. I daresay Queen Isabella fell in love with your red hair and the fire in your eyes, just as I did."
"More grey in the hair than red, I fear."
"Hardly any," she answered.
"My lady," he said, "it was your friendship I prayed for when I came to Gomera. I did not dare to dream of more."
"Are you beginning a long and gracefully convoluted speech that will, in the end, decline my carnal invitation?"
"Ah, Lady Beatrice, no decline, but perhaps postpone?"
She reached out, leaned forward, touched his cheek. "You're not a very handsome man, you know, Cristóbal."
"That has always been my opinion as well," he answered.
"And yet one can't take one's eyes from you. Nor can one purge one's thoughts of you when you're gone. I'm a widow, and you're a widower. God saw fit to remove our spouses from the torments of this world. Must we also be tormented by unfulfilled desires?"
"My lady, the scandal. If I stayed the night."
"Oh, is that all? Then leave before midnight. I'll let you over the parapet by a silken rope.
"God has answered my prayers," he said to her.
"As well he should, since you were on his mission."
"I dare not sin and lose his favor now."
"I knew I should have seduced you back in Santa Fé."
"And there's this, my lady. When I return, successful, from this great enterprise, then I'll not be a commoner, whose only touch of gentility is by his marriage into a not-quite-noble family of Madeira. I'll be Viceroy. I'll be Admiral of the Ocean Sea." He grinned. "You see, I took your advice and got it all in writing in advance."
"Well, Viceroy indeed! I doubt you'll waste a glance on a mere governor of a far-off island."
"Ah, no, Lady. I'll be Admiral of the Ocean Sea, and as I contemplate my realm"
"Like Poseidon, ruler over all the shores that are touched by the waves of the sea"
"I will find no more treasured crown than this island of Gomera, and no more lovely jewel in that crown than the fair Beatrice."
"You've been at court too long. You make your compliments sound rehearsed."
"Of course I've rehearsed it, over and over, the whole week I waited here in torment for your return."
"For the Pinta's return, you mean."
"Both were late. Your rudder, however, was undamaged."
Her face reddened, and then she laughed.
"You complained that my compliments were too courtly. I thought you might appreciate a tavern compliment."
"Is that what that was? Do strumpets sleep with men for free if they say such pretty things?"
"Not strumpets, Lady. Such poetry is not for those who can be had for mere money."
"Thou art my caravel, with sails full-winded"
"Watch your nautical references, my friend."
"Sails full-winded, and the bright red banners of thy lips dancing as thou speakest."
"You're very good at this. Or are you not making it up as you go along?"
"Making it all up. Ah, thy breath is the blessed wind that sailors pray for, and the sight of thy rudder leaves this poor sailor fullmasted"
She slapped his face, but it wasn't meant to hurt.
"I take it my poetry is a failure."
"Kiss me, Cristóbal. I believe in your mission, but if you never return I want at least your kiss to remember you by."
So he kissed her, and again. But then he took his leave of her, and returned to the last preparations for his voyage. It was God's work now; when it was done, then it was time to collect the worldly rewards. Though who was to say that she was not, after all, a reward from heaven? It was God, after all, who had made a widow of her, and perhaps God also who made her, against all probability, love this son of a Genovese weaver.
He saw her, or thought he saw herand who else could it have been?waving a scarlet handkerchief as if it were a banner from the parapet of the castle as his caravels at last set forth. He raised his hand in a salute to her, and then turned his face westward. He would not look again to the east, to Europe, to home, not until he had achieved what God had sent him to do. The last of the obstacles was past now, surely. Ten days' sailing and he would step ashore in Cathay or India, the Spice Islands or in Cipangu. Nothing could stop him now, for God was with him, as he had been with him since that day on the beach when God appeared to him and told him to forget his dreams of a crusade. "I have a greater work for you," God said then, and now Columbus was near the culmination of that work. It filled him like wine, it filled him like light, it filled him like the wind in the sails over his head.
PASTWATCH Copyright © 1996 by Orson Scott Card
Table of Contents
1. The Governor,
7. What Would Have Been,
8. Dark Futures,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I'm not usually a reader of science fiction! My style goes more toward historical fiction. This book combined the two and made it a great read. The question it asked is what might happen if we could go back in history and make a few changes? What would the end result be and would it be worth it? It was the first time in a long time that I read something that was hard for me to put down, kept me guessing until the end, and still haunts me long after I've finished reading. What more could a reader ask for?
I admit it. I have been a fan of Orson Scott Card for a while now but I wasn't prepared for how much I was enthralled in this book. I read it in three days, reading almost non-stop (much to the chagrin of my wife). Orson Scott Card complains to Sid Maeir in the jacket for distracting his time with the great PC game 'Civilization'. I add my complaint to Orson for making me useless for anything else while reading this book.
One of Card's best. I don't really feel there's much I can say about it without spoiling it. It's not perfect; I found the ending a bit disappointing, and only a few of the characters are likable. But if you could conceivably like a book about time travel or alternate history, you should read this.
An interesting look at the true (?) impact of Christopher Columbus' voyages.
One of the better alternative history novels out there. Not as deep as "Years of Rice and Salt", but way better than any of the Alvin Maker series. Card is near the top of his form here.
Excellent alternative history - what if Columbus never reached the americas? What if another group was responsible for influencing the timelines of history? What is people could view past events and effect them? Absolutely amazing concepts and characters. The What-If questions are answered and explored.
Read it for the account of Noah's flood in the first chapter, if for nothing else. It's a wonderful book, but soooooo very politically correct in its aims that it can be a little too "nice". But a great way of thinking how our world could be instead of what it is...
This was a really good book. A great vacation book and nice to get a chance to read a book in just two days. Pastwatch is a time travel book, but in my opinion, the only time travel books worth their salt (and I really like time travel!) are books where you travel BACK in time, and Pastwatch suits. There is a lot of information about American history, notably about the discovery of American by Christopher Columbus, and a lot of info about Columbus -- almost "biographical". People of the future -- it's not clear how far in the future but not incredibly far, I think -- are able to use special machines to look at the past. They can look at everything, anything they want. People pick projects and do research and keep recordings of the parts of the past relevant for their projects. One of the projects is about human slavery and Tagiri, the head researcher, through her watching, discovers that it may be possible to go back and intervene in the past in order to improve the lot of humans in the world. Much of the book is spent with this project's researchers trying to figure out when the intervention would need to take place and if the benefits to humanity would indeed outweigh the obvious problem: i.e., that current existence would be snuffed out entirely, the protagonists in the book would now never have existed. Very interesting thought process and research methods. Lots of great information. Fascinating idea. My only complaint was that everything was tied up just too neatly at the end. And that the author makes the sort of wild assumption that just because humanity might not have slavery or human sacrifice anymore, they will also be better stewards of the world. Um, okay.
This is one of my all time favorite books. I find the whole idea of one moment in time defining the future fasinating. Though it begins a little slow, it is well worth the read. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
This began interestingly but lost steam when the characters seemed very unrealistic to me. Maybe if the book had illustrated how insanely bad the present-day world was that this group of people were totally at ease with destroying it (and themselves) and rewriting history.
Rich historical detail, and a unique perspective on Columbus as a man, more than makes up for any flaws in the writing. I hope Card turns "Pastwatch" into a series.
Have you ever read a book that opens your mind to more world than you thought possible. This book gave me thoughts as wide as any I have had. Kept me blown away for weeks.
An amazing combination of fact and fiction. The history of slavery and Christopher Columbus combine with a futuristic society who have learned to observe the past and a daring group who decide to change it.
Interesting concept that had me going at first. However these are Mr. Card's poorest realized characterizations to date. Ultimately disappointed.
Very cool. Makes a strong case for adding more scifi to my shelves.
An interesting book that is part historical novel, part science-fiction novel. Pastwatch partially tells the story of Christopher Columbus' expedition to the the new world and begins with a scenario taking place as the fleet is gathering. But then the story switches to the future. The humans race, mired in a bleak future develops a technology called Pastwatch that allows historians and scientists to observe history. Further development led to Pastwatch 2, an advanced version that allows them to impact the past. So people of the future tweaked things here and there, changing the past and improving the future. One of the first things a Pastwatcher typically does is investigate their own family history. One such researcher traced her roots back to a village that was enslaved. Further investigation reveals that the root of all human exploitation in the New World was Christopher Columbus. Not through direct action, but through an unproven (but soon to be proven by others) conviction that vast wealth lie in the New World. The Pastwatchers decide they can change the history of the human race for the better if they alter Columbus' Caribbean experience. As such a profound change could have a drastic effect on the future, including the very existence of their own lives, a debate ensures when evidence is discovered their history (which at this point is our history) was already modified by Pastwatchers in another timeline, and they botched it.Three people were sent back to different points of time to intercept Columbus and prepare the native tribes. They did have a profound effect on Columbus' expedition, and while we never hear from the future Pastwatchers, those in the past complete their missions and the epilogue mentions an unusual discovery in 1955 of a skull containing information describing the timeline that never was. Whether or not the over-reaching goals of the project were realized -- if human sacrifice was not replaced by human bondage, is left for the reader to speculate.
I loved this book. The story is really interesting: In the future, humans have developed a machine that allows them to see any point in the past, at any location. When one researcher discovers that it's possible to not only watch, but effect past events, she raises an ethical dilemma. Knowing what they know, and possessing this power, are they obligated to do something to help all the suffering they see? The story flashes back and forth in time chronicling the life of Christopher Columbus and the researchers in the future who are studying him. This is really Card at his best, I'd rank it up with Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. Suspense, great characters and a thought-provoking story.
Not a fan of Orson Scott Card science fiction. Probably the historical aspect rendered it more palatable to me...This is a revisionist history - what would the world have been like if Columbus had not returned to Spain, if the Americas had another 50 years of progress before Europe arrived.Well written, compelling characters, and a really good read. The only down side was how quickly it all wrapped up in the end.
I have either one word or three to say about this book: Excellent, excellent, excellent! I was put off by the title at first: redeeming Christopher Columbus doesn't sound very fun or very worth while, but the book is truly fantastic. The premise is that researchers on the Pastwatch project use machines to view the past, until they realize that some people in the past are aware of their watching them. In a world that is dying from the sins of the previous generations, the researchers make the decision to attempt to change the past to create a better future. They decide that Columbus' discovery of the Americas is the point at which they can effect the greatest change. Soon, however, they discover that similar researchers in a previous future has also changed their past, resulting in the world that they now live in. They must make the decisions to create a better future than either of the previous ones, facing difficult choices and personally reshaping the fate of the world.The book is very well written, even though you never get personally close to any of the characters. The entire thing is written on the level of the socio-political, ideological, and economic forces involved. It's an intriguing look at the forces that shape the world, while also being a fun and exciting sci-fi tale. One of the most engaging books I've read so far this year. Highly recommended.
I enjoyed Pastwatch a great deal, largely because of the observers and their catalogue of history. Whether intentional or not, Card set up Pastwatch as the ultimate example in philosophical history in that there are cycles of collapse, rejuvenation and, more to the point, a macro example of Hegelian philosophical history. In short, the actions that actions in history are the direct result of the mistakes made from an earlier time in a counter-revolution to correct those problems.
I'm a big fan of Orson Scott Card. His books show that he has one of the most imaginative minds out there. Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus is no different.It starts out with a small prologue, that explains how the world has ended up in the not so distant future. We learn that many species and many humans have been wiped out but despite this, humanity has taken a turn. It has become, while not Utopian, a more understanding society, interested in learning from mistakes.We then are shot into the past at a look at Christopher Columbus' life. It is just a little snippet and gives us an idea of the story to come. We also learn that someone has been watching this interatction of Colubus, someone from the future.Tagiri is part of the project Pastwatch. Essentially, there are two different machines that researchers use for Pastwatch, Tempoview and the newer TruSite. Both machines allow researchers to look back in time. Tagiri is especially interested in the life of slaves, and becomes convinced that Christopher Columbus' voyage is what causes the more brutal slavery and killings in the America's.She eventually marries and has a daughter, Diko, who joins her mother in her research of Columbus. Her father is also part of the team. In the course of their research they also are joined by Hunahpu and Kemal.The researchers come to the conclusion that Columbus must be stopped, but also learn that the future has changed the past before. It is learned that originally Columbus went on a crusade to the East, not his journey to the West. A future pastwatcher plays the holy trinity to change his mind.When time travel is finally invented in their time, it is decided that Kemal, Hunahpu and Diko will travel back in time to save history. They are shuttled to three different times in the Caribbean to set about their work.Throughout the entire novel, chapters on Columbus's life and his original journey are written. It explains some of his past and his love of navigation. It also details to how he rose from being a Weaver's son, to being able to meet with Kings and Queens.Overall I was very intrigued by this novel. Card writes believably and makes sure that even a non-scientific reader can understand his concepts. His writing style is very clear and detailed and you can picture in your head the scenes and people that he describes.Pastwatch is also a very interesting concept because it is a believable invention. It is conceivable that in the future we may develop a machine like this. And if we did, would we use it to the same purposes. Tied into this are Card's views of the morals of the future. They give up their own future to improve the world before them, and that, in this time, is not very believable due to human greed and nature. But it is a wish that we could evolve so highly.My only complaint on the novel is the ending. It doesn't really describe how much is changed, other than the ending of slavery, in this newly created future. I would have liked to know what the countries of the world were all doing, if the great World Wars had happened, etc. It seems like Card did his job of rewriting the past and didn't want to go further.PastwatchPublished in 1996398 pages plus 4 pages of sources
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card (first published in 1996) is a complex story about scientists/researchers, Christopher Columbus, and alternate history. The researchers were part of the Pastwatch project, which enabled them to witness and study any time and place in the history of the world. At first the images provided only fleeting glimpses that lacked detail and sound. However, the continued development of the Pastwatch technology, enabled the researchers to clearly view, hear, and record events and/or individual conversations that interested them. For many years the researchers were limited to voyeurism, i.e., they could not communicate with their subjects. However, new technology eventually provided the ability to communicate with historical subjects. Of course that ability also provided opportunities to affect the events of the past, which provided the possibility of changing history, and therefore changing the present as well. Tagiri and Hassan lead the Columbus project within the Pastwatch organization. They were concerned about the way European explorers/invaders (mostly from Spain) raped, murdered and took native peoples from the new world back to Spain where they were forced to live as slaves. The Columbus project was established to try to use the Pastwatch technology to eliminate that exploitation and torture by the Spaniards. The researchers believed that the best way to accomplish this was to either stop Columbus from sailing west to the new world or change his attitudes about native peoples and slavery. After many years, Tagiri and Hassan¿s daughter, Diko, became the leader of this effort and the evolved technology enabled the Pastwatch researchers to physically travel back in time to impact history. In addition to their concerns about physical violence toward the people in the past and the slavery of those people, the researchers were also concerned about a crumbling ecosystem and society in the present. Changing the actions of Columbus was seen as the key to preventing the slavery and possibly avoiding ecological and societal catastrophe in the present. This book takes the reader back and forth from the Pastwatch researchers in the present to Columbus and his contemporaries. It also enlightens the reader about the development of societies in Haiti and surrounds. It provides a very interesting account of the life of Columbus and the society in which he lived. Diko and her team journey back in time and endure much loss and hardship to create an alternate history. The pivotal role of Columbus regarding the alternate world history is very well developed and fascinating. I found this book to be a first-rate and very enjoyable time travel and alternate history tale.
An absolutely excellent story, very well written, a great twist on history.
If you knew there was a bomb in a building, would you feel obliged to yell as loudly as possible to warn other people? The bomb explodes and the injuries are high and the death toll unimaginable. But then you have an opportunity to go back in time and prevent the bomb from ever being planted in the first place. Take things one step further...let's say that you stop the bomber before he even places his bomb...what else might change? Now you're dealing with what's known as 'the butterfly effect' - if a butterfly flaps it's wings in China, can it change the weather on the other side of the world?"Pastwatch" takes that concept one step further by asking if you can change the course of one man's life, can you change the course of the entire world? That one man happens to be Christopher Columbus."Pastwatch" is about discovery, exploration and redemption. Columbus is believably passionate as we gain glimpses of his upbringing in Genoa, his early years in Portugal, and his ultimate journey to Spain where, for years, he lobbied King Ferdinand and Queen Isabela to support his adventures westward.Pastwatch is a fictional organization tasked with utilizing cutting edge technology that allows people to view events in the past. Card's Pastwatch technology evolved over time, initially only allowing viewers to see events at a very macro level (historical world weather patterns initially), but developed eventually to see into actual human interactions. The most modern versions of Pastwatch technology allow viewers to watch humans interacting in full 3D.Card moves the story swiftly by jumping through 15th century Europe and the future. With each jump, Card effectively evokes emotion and understanding from each characterization. Columbus is but one axis upon which the story revolves. The other characters are instrumental in the analysis and discovery of the ability to change the past. Tagiri focuses her Pastwatch career around the study of slavery. Kemal made one of Pastwatch's early and most fundamental discoveries when he found an individual who very plausibly was the basis upon which Noah, Gilgamesh and other world flood myths stand. Diko and Hunahpu are at the center of a new generation of pastwatchers.Card has an uncanny ability to explore deep and influential topics while unraveling his narrative in an interesting and attainable way. Once the idea of time travel emerges, the characters debate its risks and rewards, but not for a moment did it feel bogged down in pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo. Likewise, there's much debate over slavery, European-based religion, and new world religion, and the speculation of alternative futures for Earth, but they blend seamlessly with the plot and merge well with the jumps into Columbus' inevitable journey across the Atlantic.Card approaches his plot-lines very intelligently, but I found a few gaps in the characters' rationale that ultimately leads to the time travel adventures into the 15th Century.The saga of "Pastwatch" is a remarkable book. I'm such a fan of exploration-era historical novels AND science fiction, that I'm ashamed to have never come across it until recently. It's truly a terrific read and I highly recommend it.One note: the pastwatch concept originates from Card's short story called "Atlantis" which delves deeply into Kemal's identification and discovery of the "original" Noah. It's a very good standalone and rewarding work, and while it's not a necessity to read before "Pastwatch", it adds to the aura and myth that surrounds Kemal.
Truly a favorite of mine, this is one of Orson Scott Card's best novels. Combining sci-fi and historical fiction, he posits a "what if" about one of the pivotal moments in American history. Very clever, very interesting, very well written. Note: quite violent, not for young readers.