Science Fiction & Fantasy Review, No. 19, November 1983, p. 19.
Card, Orson Scott. The Worthing Chronicle. Ace, NY, July 1983. 264 p. $2.75. ISBN 0-441-91810-7.
Writing and publishing a novel is no easy task, so when an author revises a novel one can’t help but wonder: why? Why not spend this talent and energy on a new story? Card introduced the Worthing family in a series of stories published as Capitol, and continued with the novel Hot Sleep: The Worthing Chronicle (both Ace, 1979). The present novel is a major revision of Hot Sleep — with no clues to why Card went to so much trouble. Unless, of course, he was trying to do a better job.
The space opera trappings from Hot Sleep (such as passages from bogus academic works) have been dropped, replaced by an unusual multiple viewpoint narrative. If the style is complex and demanding, so is the story, telling as it does who Jason Worthing is, how he discovered he was a Swipe (telepath), became a starpilot, managed to live 15,000 years, and unintentionally created utopia. Since Jason was asleep for most of this time, the story unfolds through the thoughts, actions, and dreams of others. If this wasn’t ambitious enough, the novel evolves into a powerful, provocative argument for the necessity of pain.
The Worthing Chronicle is an excellent adult novel, on a par with Card’s Songmaster (which also speaks eloquently of pain). Though events are explained at greater length in the earlier works, the current novel is fully independent, and recommended over Hot Sleep. For those familiar with the earlier works, give this a try, too. Why Card wrote it may not be clear, but in this case practice did come closer to perfect. — Lawrence I. Charters