Orson Scott Card
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Get *Wyrms* delivered to your door! Wyrms
Orson Scott Card
Tor (Tom Doherty Associates)
Copyright 1987
345 pages
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Orson Scott Card doesn't seem to able to write a single word that isn't fraught with meaning. The Hugo and Nebula award-winning author examines faith, destiny and forgiveness in the well-known Ender series, which includes Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind. His Alvin Maker books display the same thoughtfulness in matters of the self and the individual's place in the larger scheme of things. In Wyrms, which earned the distinction of a New York Times Best Book for 1997, Card explores these same issues with grace. Themes that other authors expound upon with all the subtlety of a soap-box preacher Card contemplates discreetly, without telling the reader which choices are right and which are wrong.

Curled Up With a Good BookHumans have lived on Imakulata for millenia, originating there as a Greek Orthodox religious colony. They are the ascendant race of this incredible world, maintaining an uneasy distance from the aboriginal geblings, taking the empathic gaunts as whores and catamites, enslaving the small-headed and small-brained dwelfs. Since the time of the first colonists, the Heptarchs have ruled in a seldom-broken line of descent. The Starship Captain's prophecy holds that the seventh seventh seventh daughter of the first Heptarch will become the mother of Kristos, to either be the savior or the destroyer of humanity on Imakulata. Patience is that prophesied daughter, the only living child of the rightful Heptarch, Lord Peace. But Peace belongs to a second-generation usurper. He serves as a diplomatic slave to the man in the Heptarch's seat. Peace teaches his daughter that the Heptarch's House is the whole world, and that deposing the sitting Heptarch would only bring about bloody civil war. So Patience learns the arts of diplomacy from her father and from his slave Angel, the last of the Wise. Angel is the only Wise to have returned from Cranning, to where all the Wise had followed an undeniable call years ago, to restore to Lord Peace the ability to father a daughter. Together, Angel and Peace teach Patience how to perfectly mask her emotions, how to speak every language spoken on Imakulata, how to kill with the skills of an assassin, how to be impeccably loyal to the ruling Heptarch.

But the Heptarch cannot trust Peace and Patience because of what the Starship Captain's prophecy has foretold for their destinies. He holds father and daughter effectively hostage by never letting both leave the Heptarch's House at once, and perpetually monitors their behavior and words. Thus Patience grows up never having had a single unguarded moment with her father, and Peace's slave becomes more her father than Peace himself. When the aging Lord Peace dies, Patience flees the Heptarch and the certain death he intends for her. She rejoins Angel, and in the company of a religious Vigilant, a pair of Geblings and a coarse river woman, they journey toward Cranning, from where the Unwyrm calls to her, seeking life for his race and death for humanity. Aided by a dwelf whose home is the storehouse for all the knowledge of the Wise and by a pair of empathic gaunts, Patience travels toward the fulfillment of her destiny -- to either bear the ancient Unwyrm's children or to slay him in his lair.

Card's Imakulata is a complex world in both the biological and social senses. This novel could have been twice its actual length if Card had taken the detail to a higher level. The style Card chose, though, gives Wyrms the feeling of myth, of a legend common to all of humanity's subconscious. The self, the soul, the question of right and wrong differing from good and bad, are just some of the perplexing problems that Card sparks the philosopher in all of us to think about. Card seamlessly interweaves adventure with the most unsolvable problems of the mind. Wyrms carries special appeal to those who are fans of the Ender books, but could serve equally well as an introduction to Card's work for any reader seeking thought-provoking, solid speculative fiction.

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