An addendum to this week’s Mind Meld where we asked:
The Worthing Saga is ostensibly a novel, but it’s of the “fix-up” variety–it started as several short stories, spanning space and time, loosely related. What I love about it is that the stories (or chapters) really cover a wide range of reading tastes, from parts that feel folklorish, to a chapter that feels like epic fantasy, to a few chapters that are strongly science fictional (and better yet, involve a video game!) It opens with the Day of Pain–in a world where no loss is really felt, no injury permanently sustained, suddenly pain is real and has lasting consequences. The reader is required to ask which is better–a painless life, or a painful one? From there it explores bullying, class issues, potential immortality–there are plenty of moral dilemmas and engaging characters for readers to sympathize with (or disdain). It is one of my favorite books.
As is the next one. Pastwatch: the Redemption of Christopher Columbus is one that I like to buy at used bookstores to have on hand to give to people. It’s not one that I’ve heard talked about much. It’s more clearly science fictional–a time travel story that deals with climate change, feminism, slavery, and religious tolerance by posing the question “What if Christopher Columbus hadn’t landed in the Americas?”–which most kids today know was not the awesome thing that my generation was raised to believe it was. The possibilities that story opened up blew my mind when I read it the first time, and the third, and the eighteenth (and blew my daughter’s mind when I explained the story line to her just now).
Both books pose questions that I think the teenage mind is already wrestling with, and gives so many great opportunities for thought and discussion. It is no exaggeration on my part to say that those two books–which I’ve read more times than I can count–made me a more compassionate human being (ironically, perhaps, in contrast to the author’s political rhetoric). And like Catcher in the Rye and Of Mice and Men, I hate to imagine a life in which I had missed them.