Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga is an excellent read. I
bought the novel on a lark with some gift card money, and I don't regret
it. Card's storytelling has got me itching to beginEnder's Game, among
others. One of my favorite features of the Worthing story is that it
fits well with my hobby horse, sci-fi and theology.
The story of Jason Worthing is at its core a theodicy. In place of God
are men with advanced technology and enhanced genetic abilities, but the
question of evil is the same. If someone could prevent pain, why
wouldn't they? Card makes a decent argument regarding the problem of
evil through the story. I'm not sure it would convince anyone to change
their minds on the matter, though I can't say for sure. As for judging
the quality of theodicy, I'm not sure where to start. It works for me,
but I come at it with a biased perspective. However, I can say that I
think science fiction (or literature in general) is a much better medium
for theodicy than theological treatise.
The theodicy is not particularly well disguised, nor do I think it
is intended to be. The intent is clear from fairly early on in the
novel. But it doesn't get in the way. The story and characters are
compelling enough in their own right so that some readers might even
miss the greater theme yet enjoy the collection nonetheless.
Like all good sci-fi, The Worthing Saga uses scientific or futuristic
metaphors to tell a good story. The scientific aspects are really
fascinating, and there is a lot of room to spin off and tell more good
stories from the premise. Indeed, the last 150 pages or so are actually
short stories which are not directly related to the Worthing plot. Card
does an excellent job engaging the imagination, and making you want to
read more, or perhaps even write your own.
Another fascinating aspect of this book is its apparent compatibility
with Mormon cosmology. Card is a Mormon, so as I was reading I kept an
eye out for references to his religion. If you are familiar with LDS
theology (though perhaps I am ignorant), gods are very much like men
with advanced technology and enhanced abilities. So the story fits well
with the fundamentals of Mormonism. I must confess, I think it would be
pretty fun to be a Mormon theologian. Maybe I'll look up some LDS
theology and have a read.
Read this book. And keep an eye for other good science fiction.