Sunday, January 16, 2011

Songmaster by Orson Scott Card

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 leave 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. 

I have had this book for quite some time, in a box of other books I wasn't ready to read yet.  I probably got it at a used book store, or from my mom, or from a library discard sale.  I definitely didn't get it free, and got nothing out of it, but reading a good book.  My book is in fair to poor condition, and I'll send it to anyone who wants it, in exchange for shipping (probably a couple of bucks for media or first class)

Songmaster