This book was better than The Ships of Earth, but again I feel as if five books was a bit much for this story. It could easily have been split into two separate trilogies, but it wasn’t so we get the somewhat disjointed story through the first four novels and what appears to be a fifth book which may be completely unrelated.
Roughly half of this novel takes place on the spaceship Basillica, named after their abandoned town, and Nefai and Luet have proceeded to follow the Overlord’s plans and have kept a large portion of the children awake throughout the long journey to Earth in order to train them and have them ready to stand against Elemak and his supporters.
All hell breaks loose when a pre-set alarm lets everyone out of the stasis chambers and Elemak and his supporters realise that the children have had at least 10 years education and growth and he holds the ship hostage until finally he is convinced to return to stasis along with everyone else.
Upon Earthfall, we learn more about the two sentient races that have developed in the 40 million years absence of humans from the planet. There are the diggers/devils which are giant rats and the angels/skymeat which have evolved from what we later find were genetically manipulated by humans to serve other purposes (digging and art). These two races ultimately become the foundation for the two future countries of Nafari and Elemaki and the ensuing hundreds of years of war that occurs (which is only alluded to in the end).
I also found it intriguing the way he wrote about genetics and science and of course therefore fell even more in love with the character Shedemi. Her impartiality and complete removal of herself from arguments in almost all settings made me identify with her the most, well her and her husband of convenience Zdorab, their intellect outstrips anyone else on the journey and they’re both so far removed from the arguments until Zdorab is forced into action to protect the children he assumed he would never have.
As with the last book, I was slightly annoyed and more than a bit perturbed at Card’s overwhelming need to delve into the personal psyche of the characters. Perhaps this is what makes him a fine novelist, but honestly it started getting tedious in the previous novel and was only saved in this novel by the interesting introduction of new sentient beings and new humans with distinctly different internal rhythms and psyches, but again it was almost too little too late.
I do have to ask if Card’s writings of a greater being are an influence of his Mormonism or if they are completely unrelated? I could be completely missing some mirror of this story from a religious tale. I can never be certain, but either way it’s interesting to wonder what made him write about these things the way he has, was he rejecting something, coming to terms with it, etc?