Bewildering Stories

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Orson Scott Card's The Crystal City

Title: "The Crystal City"
Author: Orson Scott Card
Tor Books
Hardcover: 384 pages
ISBN: 0312864833
Price: $25.95
Well, I'm still chewing away at Stephenson's Quicksilver and the end is not yet in sight. I dunno. I find it fascinating, but hard going. I'm easily distracted, I guess, and want my fiction to be not so chewy. So, I was distracted. By a Robert Parker mystery, and Orson Scott Card's new addition to the "Tales of Alvin Maker".

Some people have wondered whether Ender Wiggin (Ender's Game and others) was the only character that Scott Card created with any depth to him. This, of course, is silliness, as Card is quite capable of many fully developed characters, and Alvin is not Ender, nor Ender, Alvin.

Also some people are upset because Card's Mormon theology is showing through the cracks of this, the sixth book in the series, although, being not as conversant with Mormon history as I might be, was not aware that Alvin's "Crystal City", "the City of Makers" would end up in what is now Nauvoo, Illinois. (And how that ended up as "Noisy River", I dinna have a clew, Captain.) And the central section of his special building (built of blood and water) is now being called the "tabernacle". I thought it odd, but didn't pick up on it until researching for this book review. (Uncle Jerry isn't always quick on the uptake...)

However, all that being said, this book is a worthwhile addition to the "Maker" canon. Alvin's wife Peggy is still manipulating him, seeing manifold futures and picking her way to the ones that won't get him killed. She sends him down to New Orleans (only the Spanish have it now so it's New Barcelona) where he accidentally (at least to HIM) causes a yellow fever plague, postponing the Civil War.

The story starts with Alvin having met Abe Lincoln, perhaps a bit confusing to some. He has also refused to help Steven Austin and Jim Bowie go down and conquer Mexico. Alvin uses his knack, his half-black adopted brother-in-law Arthur Stuart begins developing his knack, Alvin's pain-in-the-posterior brother Calvin shows up and once again tries to mess everything up, the golden plow, a tool of much contention in earlier books finally finds a use, and the eponymous Crystal City begins to be built.

The book is a fast read and although enjoyable is not the "best of show". We wait for Book Seven, and the number 7 signifying heavenly perfection, perhaps will be the last of the series.

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Copyright © 2003 by Jerry Wright