Remember those math problems from school that gave so many of us nightmares? Like, “Two trains are on the same track a distance 100 km apart heading towards one another, each at a speed of 50 km/h. A fly starting out at the front of one train, flies towards the other at a speed of 75 km/h. Upon reaching the other train, the fly turns around and continues towards the first train. How many kilometers does the fly travel before getting squashed in the collision of the two trains?”
Now, imagine a whole book of over 650 pages that makes it seem like you are caught inside such a math puzzle for the entire book! A book that has to explain to you in an appendix such facts as “the [space] ship made it through that first jump … 31 light years from Earth times 19 squared”…! A book all about characters who travel back and forth in time but are always arguing about whether they have influenced each other in the past or in the future, or whether they are making time slow down or time speed-up, or if the current incarnation of the character needs the future self to go back and interact with the past self, and did that mean the past really happened or never had happened or never would happen or….? Are you screaming yet? Because I was!!!
Somewhere in all of this there is a story, but to me, it got almost totally loss in all the craziness. What follows is typical dialogue in the book, occurring in this exchange between the characters named Loaf and Umbo, after Future-Umbo went back in time to deliver a warning to the character Rigg before disaster could strike. Present-Umbo wants to figure out how to do it so he makes sure Future-Umbo knows how to do it:
Loaf: “…you learned how to go back in time … delivered the warnings, and now everything is happening differently. So why do you need to deliver the messages this time at all?”
Umbo: “‘Because none of that has happened yet, so now it won’t,’ said Umbo. ‘I have to learn how to travel in time so I can go back this time and deliver the same message again.’”
Loaf: “But you didn’t get the message twice, did you? So why deliver it twice?”
‘I don’t know,’ said Umbo. ‘I don’t think it is twice. I think there’s only one message, and I still have to deliver it.’
Loaf: ‘But you only know you have to deliver it because you already did. And that’s the point. You already did.”
Umbo: “I have to do it because I know I already did, only when I did it, it was the future, so I have to get to the future in order to come back and do what I already did…”
And this goes on and on and on!!! Not only in this particular passage, but repeatedly, throughout the book!
Yes, I made it to the end, but I’m not sure how or why. Maybe my future self told my past self I had to do it to ensure my current self had another book to add to my list of books read for the year….
Evaluation: Ender’s Game is one of my favorite reads. But this book? It was just painful for me. And there is a sequel! Gaaaaah! And no! I am not reading it! Not my present self, my future self, or my past self! None of us!
Rating: 1.5/5 (Why so high, you may ask? Well, little glimmers of Card’s storytelling ability peeped through here and there, between math problems….)
Published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2010