High above the earth orbits the starship Basilica. On board the huge vessel is a sleeping woman. Of those who made the journey, Shedemai alone has survived the hundred of years since the Children of Wetchik returned to Earth.
She now wears the Cloak of the Starmaster, and the Oversoul wakes her sometimes to watch over her descendants on the planet below. The population has grown rapidly--there are cities and nations now, whole peoples descended from the who followed Nafai or Elemak.
But in all the long years of watching and searching, the Oversoul has not found the thing it sought. It has not found the Keeper of the Earth, the central intelligence that also can repair the Oversoul's damaged programming.
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This concluding volume of the Homecoming series (Earthfall, et al.) doesn't live up to the earlier books, which were notable for their subtlety in developing essentially religious themes through focused plotting and sensitive characterization. Here, the plot relies on familiar Judeo-Christian archetypes, tailored to examine discrimination, theocracy and the relationship to God-or, in this case, the powerful mystery of the Keeper. Three intelligent species now inhabit Earth: the sky people, who live in treetops; the earth people, who live in the soil and in tree trunks; and the middle people, humans descended from colonists who have returned to Earth after an absence of 40-million years. In addition to the stilted speech of some of the characters, the novel is slowed by Card's ``naming conventions,'' which increase the mystical and cultural importance of names but also force readers to refer frequently to the separate chapter on the author's system of compounded names, titles and endearments in order to determine which characters are speaking or acting. The conclusion of the story, however, in which the firstborn son of a former priest and leader sees the evil he has caused and selects his future, is vintage Card and a joy to read. This mildly disappointing wrap-up to a rich series about humanity's journey from Earth to the stars and back might be satisfying enough to Card fans, but it's not the book through which to meet Card for the first time. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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May 14, 1996
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