[Editor’s Note: The following review is by guest reviewer Chris Hibbard.]
REVIEW SUMMARY: The new material in this reprint does not add anything significant to the story but this is still an engaging read.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Re-release of Orson Scott Card’s 1979 “classic”: a tale of a radical regenerative running amok on an imprisoned planet, collecting super powers along the way and searching for redemption and significance.
PROS: Interesting plot that moves along nicely; like the movies X-Men or Spiderman, part of the draw is the character learning new powers.
CONS: This re-release was advertised to have 10% new material but doesn’t add much to the story.
BOTTOM LINE: An engaging read whether you buy the original or the reprint.
Ok, so the smut added to the first chapter was new (please Orson, I don’t need a description of a radical regenerative man who just grew breasts feeling aroused at his doctor’s examining them). Other than that, I had to dig out my original to find any difference at all. The few descriptive changes did show the voice of a more mature writer, and I’ll admit made for better reading, but they were hard to spot even for a re-reader like me.
Ok, to the story: Thousands of years ago there was a bid made to take over the universe by sixty-some recalcitrants who were banished to a planet lacking significant metal ores. The rebellionists’ families have only one contact with the outside universe: devices to trade whatever they can for metal. Our hero, the crown prince Lanik belongs to a family who slices spare body parts from their mutant children and shoves them into the transporter-device in trade for iron. But peace in Utopia doesn’t last! Lanik is found to be a “rad” and starts growing body parts uncontrollably. Instead of sending him to the pens for parts-harvesting, his father sands him on a diplomatic mission that is actually banishment.
In short, he visits a handful of the warring families in disguise and learns their secret super powers. By the end of the book he can speed or slow time in an unlimited fashion, draw energy from the sun and neither eat nor breathe, control the earth and rocks or heal others through learned mental powers, and regenerate any body part you might choose to hack from him. He doesn’t use his super powers to gain fame and fortune though, oh no; this guy is out to save the world.
It might sounds stupid (and it is) but it’s still an interesting read. It’s a first-person novel so the plot has no parallel devices, but still manages to be surprisingly engaging (though not quite as much as Ender’s Game). Lanik starts his journey as a prideful, privileged teenager but matures through his experiences into a caring, humble adult, willing to give up his slice of the pie for the greater good. I wouldn’t call the book “dark”, but maybe a little melancholy. I think any radical regenerative would give it 3 out of 5 thumbs up.