Book Review: Folk of the Fringe
When I see a new Orson Scott Card book pop-up on Audible.com, I snatch it up and give it a listen. So when Folk of the Fringe came up, I recognized it as a suggestion from my brother and was rather excited about it.
Folk of the Fringe is actually a collection of themed short stories similar to The Worthing Saga. They all take place in a post-world-war-three era where nuclear and biological weapons have destroyed a majority of the United States population. All infrastructure is gone along with communication and government. Those who have survived have to create their own government and salvage the old infrastructure.
Because Card is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he throws in some “Mormon” themes as well. For instance, the first story is a group of Mormons who have been forced from their homes in South Carolina after having a majority of their congregations slaughtered by “Christian Soldiers.” They meet a young man, Jamie Teague, who travels the countryside and reluctantly agrees to guide them to Utah. Friendships are made and eventually they are rescued by people sent from the “State of Deseret.” Interestingly enough, the State of Deseret is the “last of the European states.” All other territory in the Americas has been taken over by the “natives,” which are mostly the indigenous people from South American.
Some interesting concepts are highlighted. Like the flooding of The Great Salt Lake to the point where most of Salt Lake, Davis and Utah counties are all under water. The Salt Lake Temple is flooded to the point where you can only see the tops of the spires (the Angel Moroni has been removed to a safer location). This has forced civilization into the “desert” areas of Utah. There are towns are dedicated to getting the desert ground to grow through a 5-7 year planting rotation. These towns are called the fringe because they are on the fringe of the plant-able earth. Thus the name of the book.
Overall, a fairly decent read. But not Card’s best work. I really wanted to get to know some of the characters better. Character development is Card’s biggest strength (at least what I love about him). He has these characters that you fall in love with and that are thrown into some serious social, religious and personal pressures.
I didn’t feel that in this book. The Worthing Saga was much more compelling as a grouping of short stories. Perhaps because it was set in a much more fanciful time, but I felt a connection with the characters. In the Fringe, I felt like just when I was getting to know a character, the story would end.
Still a quality read. B+
What I found fascinating about the book is that it is set in a post-nuclear winter situation (when most LDS would expect Christ to come) and He didn’t come to earth. I think that Card is making an important religious point that maybe Christ won’t come until the earth is ready for Him, regardless what disasters humans choose to inflict on each other.
The other fascinating point is the Latin American influx into the Southwest. Having served a mission in Brazil, Card has a special place in his heart for those people and there is plenty in the Book of Mormon to indicate that what is describes is a distinct possibility. Writing from Bolivia at this moment, these people take their freedom and politics much more seriously than we do (hunger is a powerful thing) and many references in 3 Nephi indicate that if the Gentiles (North America) rejects Christ and family and goodness, those who are descendents of the BofM peoples will “tread” and “tear” the Gentiles. I think Card presents a rather realistic situation of how that night come about.
Very interesting insight. I guess I didn’t look that deeply although I did see the influx from Latin America as a bit of Book of Mormon prophecy.