Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus


Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card

Card, O. S. (1996). Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. New York: TOR. 9780312850586

One of the programs offered at the library takes place every August. This is the AP Book Discussion sessions. One of the books some of the kids in Clear Creek I.S.D. read was Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus. As I’m not the biggest Sci-Fi fan, I had never read Card but the time travel motif appealed to me. So, I picked up this book in February.

Initially, we have two storylines. The first one reads like a biography of Christopher Columbus (taking place in the late 1400s.)  The other line introduces people living in the twenty-third century. They are living in a depleted planet and a group called Pastwatch studies human history.

Columbus struggles to make his way to the Far East. Tagiri, generations into the future, observes the past with her TempoView in Juba, Sudan. Tagiri studies her genealogy, finding a boy stolen into slavery. She leads a group to find that all the woes of the world were begotten by slavery. Additionally, she sees that the one who brought it to the Western Hemisphere was no other than Columbus. When Tagiri and Pastwatcher Hassan realize Haitians in the 1400s can Tagiri and Hassan, they study the chances of changing the past to preserve a future. Tagiri and Hassan marry, have two children. Their daughter, Diko, joins their effort. Also, the great Kemel and the “underachiever” Hunaphu get on board.

These concepts of alternate history, time travel, and undoing slavery still fascinate me. Also, I was quite impressed with a historical figure that I took for granted. Card presents many questions; “If I could undo a wrong, would I?,” “Was Columbus the vector of slavery?,” and “Why did Columbus go West?”

While the plot intrigues, the characters and the dialogue was hard for me to buy. A five year old Diko asked her mother if she were cute at two. That’s unrealistic! Furthermore, I’m not sure I buy Tagiri being a compassionate woman. I found the guys – Kemel, Hunaphu, and Columbus – much more believable.

Here’s my last question: Where are the other Pastwatch books?

Three Out of Five Pearls

Places: Juba, Sudan; Genova, Italy; Lagos, Portugal; Spain; Hispaniola, Mexico

Word Bank: Caravel,

For more on Card’s Pastwatch: The redemption of Christopher Columbus, please check out the following links:

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