Book Review: Songmaster by Orson Scott Card

Continuing on my goal to read/listen to all the Orson Scott Card books on Audible.com, I downloaded and listened to Songmaster. This was the first full book I enjoyed through my brand new iPod Nano. Of course I didn’t pay for it myself. I won it in a Novell giveaway (I almost called it a contest, but I didn’t do anything except fill out a form online).

With Songmaster comes my first disappointment from OSC. It’s not that it wasn’t a masterful book. It had great character development and great premise, but it all came down to a few scenes in the book (specifically surrounding one character). I’ll get into that in a bit.

It’s the future and the human race has expanded to many planets.  Of these planets there is one that has developed a “city” (which takes up one third of the two continents) they affectionately call “The Songhouse.”  This city/school is dedicated to producing the best voices in the Universe.  Not only do they sing, but that’s how they communicate.  Because they know how to use their voices, they are able to communicate much deeper feelings than with words alone and so their communication is more pure.  Of these singers, the best and rarest are called song birds.

This story is about one of those Songbirds named Ansset.  Not only is he one of the Songbirds, he is eventually considered the best Songbird to ever live.  He is sent to the Emperor who rules the galaxy with an iron fist. The book follows his trials and successes through his young life and returns to detail when has grown quite old.
It’s a powerful story about the growth of a young man placed in very difficult situations.  Ansset is a young man (really a boy — he’s 6 when he is first sent to the Emperor) that is very passionate, yet never displays his feelings (controlling ones feelings allows them to be released only in song — making the songs more powerful).  He’s also very compassionate and is able to teach the Emperor to love.

And now to the reason why I was disappointed.  Ansset eventually finds himself in a friendship with an old friend from the Songhouse and her husband (a “former” homosexual), Josef.  When Josef first meets Ansset, he tries to leave his wife, KiaKia, because he doesn’t want to hurt her.  He knows that he will eventually fall in love with Ansset.

The inevitable happens when they are placed in a situation where they spend a lot of time together and out of compassion (and a little bit of  naitivity) Ansset participates in a homosexual expirience with Josef.  It’s turns out incredibly destructive for both individuals, but it still didn’t seem like something that should be in an Orson Scott Card novel.

Card had this to say about it.  And although his explanation makes perfect sense, it still doesn’t seem like something that should be in one of his novels.  I’ve read other Card works that had some sexuality in them, but I think this was the most graphic.  Perhaps I felt that way because I was cringing through every moment of listening to it.

I guess my point is this:  If Card had left out the homosexual scene, it would have been an amazing story, filled with pain, passion (non-sexual), failure and triumph.  But it was very much soured by one very minor scene which could have easily been left out.

Grade: C-

Grade if edited: A-

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