The Folk of the Fringe

by Orson Scott Card

Far from Card's best

June 2001

Unless you're a Mormon or you've read everything else Card has written (pretty much my situation), this book is probably not for you. There are a few interesting ideas in this collection of loosely-connected short stories, in which America has been destroyed by nuclear bombs from Russia, and biochemical warfare (new, more virulent strains of diseases such as syphillus have been let loose), and in particular, the Mormons in Utah have recreated society, scavenging off the old and reclaiming the desert for farmland. The Great Salt Lake area has been flooded, and the great Mormon Temple is submerged.

However, for all this interesting background, Card doesn't so much concentrate on the details of how this has all worked - he throws in details as the stories need them, giving one a little more of an idea as to what's up.

Instead, as is Card's wont, the center of the stories are people, families, and communities - how a perpetual outsider or loner gets himself accepted in a group, how members of a group bolster and undercut one another, how civilization gets built on the backs of people who feel hemmed in. The last story, America, doesn't quite fit with the others in this theme - it's more visionary, and more about 1-on-1 relationships as opposed to group dynamics.

Still, Card has written much better short stories than these, in treating character, dynamics, and the like. He has also touched on Mormon themes, history, and scripture in his Homecoming and Alvin Maker series, and now that I've been primed for it, I can find it all over the place in his writings. However, Mormonism and post-apocalyptic science fiction are an interesting mix, so if you've exhausted your other avenues to Card, this isn't time wasted. It's just that he's written so many better books.

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Mary Pat Campbell, last updated 11 June 2001