In this sprawling science-fiction sequel to Pathfinder (2011), three time-shifters discover that the secrets of the past threaten their world with imminent obliteration.
Rigg, his sister, Param, and best friend, Umbo, have joined their abilities to slip through time and escaped from murderous pursuit, circumventing the invisible Wall that divides their planet into 19 independent evolutionary experiments. As they explore these new environments and encounter the ancient, intelligent machines that manipulate their development, a warning from the future reveals that ships from Earth are about to revisit their time-displaced colony—and won’t like what they find. This setup allows the author to display his worldbuilding bravado in wildly imaginative scenarios; unfortunately, it also leads to 500 pages of little more than exposition. The company spends a year travelling and meeting characters conveniently prepped to dump vast swaths of back story. Switching viewpoints each chapter among the three young protagonists should provide some variety, except that their voices are mostly indistinguishable: Supernaturally self-aware and infinitely introspective, they brood over their flaws and failures, ruminate upon the nature of truth and trust, and obsess about the possibility of free choice and the definition of “human,” with occasional jarring lapses into juvenile potty humor and teenage romantic crushes. Nonetheless, the writing is still infused with a compulsive readability that will keep the pages turning right up to the cliffhanger climax.
Nobody combines gee-whiz, geeky speculation and angst-y adolescent navel-gazing better than Card; this series should prove catnip to his many fans. (Science fiction. 12 & up)