Title: The Memory of Earth
Number in Series: 1 (one)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Original Publisher: Tor Books
Originally Published: March 1992
From all the Orson Scott Card books I’ve read, this was probably the most forward thinking and also very boring sci-fi I’ve ever laid my hands on. The forward thinking part always goes hand in hand with science fiction – as the authors always have to imagine how a world in the future would look like, based on the past as well as on the current developments.
Written in 1992, the book features a city of women where they only pick a man for fun and to support and love and not because they need a protector and a caretaker like in the olden days.
Should I tell you why I thought the book was an absolute bore? It featured lineages and names similar to the Old Testament. It had a culture millions of years after Earth had disappeared in a nuclear winter as primitive as the desert tribes right now.
“Once these two had been joined together in love, or something like love; they had made two babies, and yet, only fifteen years later, the last tie between them was broken now. All lost, all gone. Nothing lasted, nothing. Even this forty-million-year world that the Oversoul had preserved as if in ice, even it would melt before the fire. Permanence was always an illusion, and love was just the disguise that lovers wore to hide the death of their union from each other for a while.”
High above the planet Harmony, the Oversoul watches Its task. programmed so many millennia ago. is to guard the human settlement on this planet – to protect this fragile remnant of Earth from all threats. To protect them. most of all. from themselves. The Oversoul has done its job well. There is no war on Harmony. There are no weapons of mass destruction. There is no technology that could lead to weapons of war.
By control of the data banks. and subtle interference in the very thoughts of the people, the artificial intelligence has fulfilled its mission. But now there is a problem. In orbit, the Oversoul realises that it has lost access to some of its memory banks, and some of its power systems are failing. And on the planet. men are beginning to think about power, wealth, and conquest.
It was a kind of prayer, though, he realized as he emerged, freezing cold as the water evaporated from his skin in the breeze of the dark morning.
I am with you, he said to the Oversoul. I’ll do whatever you ask, because I long for you to accomplish your purpose here.
We follow a group of brothers (and half brothers, begotten through a complex web of regularly shifting marriages) and their sibling rivalries in the midst of a strange society that is simultaneously very primitive, and highly advanced. Certain technologies such as complex electomagnetic manipulation and powerful computers are common, yet things like cars and explosives are unheard of mysteries. This creates a setting that looks in many ways, like ancient rome, the renaissance, or perhaps the Old Testament, but allows for science fictional high-technology elements as well. It’s an interesting mash-up that has a lot of promise.
Card also spends a lot of time developing a matriarchal society with complex family relationships, and a very ordered religious system that is based on worship of The Oversoul. It’s an interesting culture, to say the least. Women have more power and prestige than men, often having many husbands, although never simultaneously. Only women are allowed to perform higher religious ceremonies, and have more say in government and politics.
The main plot concerns the Oversoul becoming weak, losing it’s influence over humanity, allowing people to think of once forbidden technologies and begin to implement them.
The boring part of the book deals with social studies, the trials and tribulations of the brothers and one very badly drawn villain who has one trait and nothing else that would give him more dimensions.
Many plot points seemed to be mash-ups of Old Testament stories, a little bit of Joseph here, and little bit of Abraham there, etc. But that’s only because I am unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon. Apparently, this story is an exact retelling of the Book of Mormon, to the point where some character’s names are only a few letters off.