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Songmaster by Orson Scott Card
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Songmaster (original 1980; edition 1987)

by Orson Scott Card

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1,379None5,574 (3.75)10
Member:shinyone
Title:Songmaster
Authors:Orson Scott Card
Info:Tor Books (1987), Paperback, 377 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:SF, 2012

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Songmaster by Orson Scott Card (1980)

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I can't help but find this a remarkable book in many ways. The characters really live for me, and several are quite complex--certainly not simple to evaluate as good or evil. And I loved the world Card created of the Songhouse. This is a place where even common communications are made by song. I fell in love with Orson Scott Card's writing after discovering his Ender books. The theme of those books is tolerance, and trying to understand the "Other." And the theme of this one is love--of all kinds. The children brought to be trained to the Songhouse are orphans; when the young and gifted Ansset, who this novel is centered upon, is brought there, another child comforts him with the house's "Love Song" which is repeated at key moments:

“I will never hurt you.
I will always help you.
If you are hungry
I'll give you my food.
If you are frightened
I am your friend.
I love you now.
And love does not end.”

Including by the way, love between two men, and I don't mean platonic. Especially given this book was published in 1978, the novel is incredibly liberal and accepting in outlook. And yes, you might know that Orson Scott Card is now infamous for public statements against same sex marriage so vehement it's hard to believe it's just a matter of conviction, rather than bigotry. I know some reviewing this novel can see only hostility in its depiction of a relationship between two men--but I suspect they read this book in light of Card's remarks, and read into it what they were expecting. I only know that when I read this for the first time as a teen, that's far from what I took from it. And it's notable that those reviewers expressing anti-gay sentiments are angry at Card for his depiction, not happy with it. I found a remark of Card's over a decade after the book's publication defending the novel where he claimed:

What the novel offers is a treatment of characters who share, between them, a forbidden act that took place because of hunger on one side, compassion on the other, and genuine love and friendship on both parts. I was not trying to show that homosexuality was "beautiful" or "natural" -- in fact, sex of any kind is likely to be "beautiful" only to the participants, and it is hard to make a case for the naturalness of such an obviously counter-evolutionary trend as same-sex mating. Those issues were irrelevant. The friendship between [them] was the beautiful and natural thing, even if it eventually led them on a mutually self-destructive path.

The relationship isn't the central focus of the book. I wouldn't belabor the issue so much in this review, except that Card's views on homosexuality (expressed in ways much more extreme than in the quote above) so shocked me because it seemed so contrary to the spirit of what I had read by him and knowing those views now taint how I read his books. So rereading this--trying to decide whether or not to keep this book on my shelf or not has only deepened my bewilderment. How can he believe that, but write this? Maybe it's because in the end, Card is too good a writer to write caricatures--that his subconscious can counter even strongly held and expressed views as they're typed on the page. Just as Shakespeare may give us a Shylock that while reinforcing anti-Semitic stereotypes, at the same time has him cry, "Hath not a Jew eyes" demanding us to recognize his common humanity. I only know that I still can't reread Songmaster and remain unmoved. So despite feeling a bit embarrassed to admit Card still sings to me, it's true--the man's a bard. ( )
1 vote LisaMaria_C | Jun 16, 2013 |
I was debating between 3 and 4 for a while, because I liked it, but it was a rather sad book, not to mention I liked the first half better than the second. The second felt hurried, and while I was hoping the book would show more of what happened after the point where the short story ended, I was rather disappointed by the happenings themselves. So, 3 it is.
Also, the cover creeps me out. I keep thinking it looks like his life's being sucked out, rather than him just singing. It's something about the way the face is painted. I guess it fits the book though. ( )
  AshuritaLove | Apr 7, 2013 |
Kidnapped at an early age, the young singer Ansset has been raised in isolation at the mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life has been filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any heard before. Ansset's voice is both a blessing and a curse, for the young Songbird can reflect all the hopes and fears his auidence feels and, by magnifying their emotions, use his voice to heal--or to destroy. When it is discovered that his is the voice that the Emperor has waited decades for, Ansset is summoned to the Imperial Palace on Old Earth. Many fates rest in Ansset's hands, and his songs will soon be put to the test: either to salve the troubled conscience of a conqueror, or drive him, and the universe, into mad chaos.
  johnylitnin | Apr 20, 2010 |
As a huge fan of Card's Ender/Shadow books, I couldn't help comparing this novel to the other series as I read. There are a lot of parallels, especially between the protagonists of the two series--Card seems to enjoy writing about ill-used Messiah-figures, who inevitably end up martyred for their cause but leave the world forever changed in their wakes (I will say that Songmaster ended on a much happier note than Ender's Game, ultimately).

Still, Ansset and his story stand on their own quite well, and I can honestly say that I was (pleasantly) surprised by the story and several of the ways the plot twisted as I read. The author convinced me to care about his characters and the strange little world he'd created for them, and I'm happy to have been affected as much as I was. ( )
  okrysmastree | Nov 18, 2009 |
The plot just didn't make sense. The author introduces too many foreign ideas without ever stopping to explain them. I was also turned off by the negative view of homosexuality in this book. In my opinion, there is a very negative underlying theme regarding homosexuals in this book. ( )
  dustedrose | Oct 21, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orson Scott Cardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nolan, DennisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312876629, Paperback)

An SF classic from the author of Ender's Game.

Kidnapped at an early age, the young singer Ansset has been raised in isolation at the mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life has been filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any heard before. Ansset's voice is both a blessing and a curse, for the young Songbird can reflect all the hopes and fears his auidence feels and, by magnifying their emotions, use his voice to heal--or to destroy. When it is discovered that his is the voice that the Emperor has waited decades for, Ansset is summoned to the Imperial Palace on Old Earth. Many fates rest in Ansset's hands, and his songs will soon be put to the test: either to salve the troubled conscience of a conqueror, or drive him, and the universe, into mad chaos.

Songmaster is a haunting story of power and love--the tale of the man who would destroy everything he loves to preserve humanity's peace, and the boy who might just sing the world away.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:47 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Kidnapped at an early age, Ansset has been raised in isolation at a mystical retreat called the Songhouse. His life is filled with music, and having only songs for companions, he develops a voice that is unlike any other. But Ansset's voice is both a blessing and a curse--for it reflects all the hopes and fears of his audience, and, by magnifying their emotions, can be used either to heal or to destroy. When it is discovered that his is the voice that the Emperor has waited decades for, Ansset is summoned to the Imperial Palace on Old Earth. Many fates rest in Anssett's hands, and his songs will soon be put to the test: either to salve the troubled conscience of a conqueror or drive him, and the universe, into mad chaos.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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