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VINE VOICEon 19 November 2002
Seems like we (and Alvin) think that Alvin is headed round the bend - he's so busy trying to be 'good' and keep sane, he's heading nowhere.
We keep losing the thread of why he's wandering and have to be reminded occasionally of his aim.
OK, there were some nice touches in there, Audobon & Balzac especially, but I thought the trial was a bit too glib - I reckon that the pro-slavery contingent would have just taken over and had a hanging there & then in real life.
But, if Alvin really is the second coming - I guess that makes it all OK.
Enough of picky - the book is a good, flowing read, as most of the Alvin series are - Card is a master story-teller, dragging you into the soul of his characters, willing you to keep reading.... ****
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on 2 September 1999
Well, he's done it again. Orson Scott Card blows off yet another series. As he's previously done to the Ender series and the 'Earth' novels, he turns in an utterly horrible novel in the middle of his series.
'Heartfire' has none of the charm of the first books in the series. The main plot lines consist of slaves voluntarily trapping their 'spirits' (for lack of a better term), and Alvin's quest to help a girl with special powers.
As if that's not enough Card does nothing to advance his 'Crystal City' storyline. He saddles the reader with incredibly annoying characters..Mike Fink (I believe his name is) who swears and serves no purpose I can fathom..the frenchman-philosopher (whose name I can't recall)..ditto Fink..and Arthur Stuart, who becomes more and more annoying with each passing page. If I were Alvin I'd leave the annoying child behind.
If Card weren't so good at creating interesting fiction I'd stop reading him in a heartbeat. I don't know whether he gets bored with his series, or there are no new stories to tell, but just as with books 3&4 in the Ender series (awful), and books 4&5 (especially 5) in the Earthfall series, Card apparently quits on another series.
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on 19 October 1998
Card's not doing much exposition at this point: either you know what Alvin's about or you don't. Not much knackery going on either, compared to some of the other books in this series. Alvin brings Calvin back from the dead: nothing new there. Wonderful character development, as usual, both fictional and historical (John Adams, John C. Calhoun, John-James Audubon). Lots of loose ends, of course, given that this is a series. At this point I suspect Card hasn't any more of a clue as to the final form the Crystal City will take than Alvin does. I, for one, will enjoy the discovery process over the next few installments. A warning to those who are picking this up midstream: if American history is not your strong point, you might want to either look elsewhere or commit to a fair amount of catching up, 'cause at least 50% of the enjoyment of this series is already knowing what REALLY happened and comparing it to the "Alvin" version.
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on 15 April 2001
Orson Scott Card to my mind is one of the most visionary writers of present time . His Alvin Maker/Smith series started off being further acknowledegement of this genius .However after the first three there is a little doubt cast over how visionary this series is becoming . The characters are vividly written with Alvin in particular being quite brilliant but this book meanders down the same clueless path the fourth installment took. Leaving us uncertain how his relationship with his brother Calvin will end nor how the crystal city will ever come to be . Card's work is excellent without doubt , perhaps he could give a bit more direction to his next book however , if there is one of course .
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on 16 June 1999
This latest in the Alvin Maker series is, like all of Card's writing, entertaining, thoughtful and contains elegant prose. Unfortunately, the only reasons for this installment seem to be the exposition of the alternate America--we already get it, I think--and the introduction of new "disciples"--enough already! The half of the book that covers Alvin's experience with New England witchcraft laws would be far more interesting if most of this moral territory hadn't been covered so thoroughly in Seventh Son. Purity is an interesting new character, but there are already enough major characters in this saga. I think most readers, like me, are itching for some progress toward the Crystal City, assuming that Card intends to take the series that far. We can only hope that later installments will reveal a vital purpose for each of the "good guys". Much more interesting was the part set in Camelot--Card's concept of the name-taking is quite good. We do see some change in Calvin's heart after he nearly dies, I think. But still, at the end, the only definite change in anybody's situation is that Alvin will have a couple more followers. The one non-plot related complaint I have is that some of the dialogue--especially the banter in the opening chapters--is a little tiresome. It's better later, though. If you like Card or have read the previous books in the series you should read this book. It's not as good as some others in the series but still a darn good read. If you haven't read any of the Alvin Maker series DON'T START HERE, it will just confuse you. All in all, this book meets Card's high standards--it just fails to meet some of the longtime reader's expectations.
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on 15 July 1998
I've followed Orson Scott Card's career from his first professional sale of science fiction. Reading his short work was aptly described as "playing pattycake with Baby Huey." If you seek out these early works, you can see a writer who worked his way through a brilliant apprenticeship to become a solid talent.
Card's Alvin Maker series is ambitious, there's no denying that. The first books in the series laid out nothing less than a coming-of-the-Messiah story set in an altenate North America where magic works and the Revolution didn't. Any writer who could bring that off deserved respect and Card had mine.
Until lately, that is.
In the terminology of the Alvin Maker universe, Card seems to have banked his heartfire, the spark of divinity that defines our talents and course in life. Where Seventh Son turned a pioneer family's struggle to find a new home into an epic tale, Heartfire lets an archetypical struggle between good and evil slide into being! ! a mere spat between bratty siblings.
Oddly enough, the book generated the most emotion in me in a way that I doubt Card intended - his description of the Puritan New England colonies. What was most chilling wasn't so much the description of the overbearing theocracy so much as the implicit assumption that such a theocracy would be admirable if only it didn't get 'out of hand.' It's one thing to describe psychic abilities in terms of theology when the characters are obviously steeped in their mythos, but when a Big Brother State is put up as something of a 'near-miss', well, thanks, but no thanks. I'm from Texas, a place that has just decided to throw away millions of educational dollars on the whim of a group of religious fanatics, a place that leads the thundering herd of no-nothings in stamping biology back to a pre-19th Century level. I don't need to read about how wonderful it would be to live in a Christian country. I'm familiar with history. I already know of a! ! time when the world lived under Christianity. It was call! ed the Dark Ages.
I wish I could chalk up my dislike of this book to Card's theistic bent, but that just isn't the case. The entire series has been steeped in theism which did nothing to put me off. No, the sour theological undertaste is only disturbing because the book has so little working for it.
I hope Card can get his act together, get his head back on straight and write the next book in the series in a way that blows this place-keeping little tale out of my memory. Otherwise, I think I'll just save the cash.
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on 6 July 1998
Like a lot of Card's recent series installments, this book drags without any real point. The characters are sort of drifting towards an eventual destination, but Heartfire is a mess, without most of the elements that normally distinguish Card's work.
The plot: Alvin goes on trial, again; Calvin gets in trouble, again; and everyone has long conversation about what interesting characters they are. Alvin decides that the Crystal City should have fair laws. Alvin's trial and Calvin's goofing around each turn out ok, and Alvin picks up some more disciples.
Back in the good old days, Orson Scott Card novels were full of original premises, difficult moral dilemmas, and were gripping the whole way through. Recently, _Pastwatch_ met all these criteria, and was well worth 5 stars. On the other hand, _Heartfire_ feels like it is just marking time until 1846, when Alvin will presumably lead his people West. At this rate, it looks like a long, boring wait.
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on 23 August 1998
It was very obvious to me after the first chapter of Alvin Journeyman the OSC was DONE telling this story. I was very surprised to find Heartfire. I re-read the first 4 books and read Heartfire all in the same week. I really enjoyed it, and at the end of the week I was waiting for another chapter in the Alvin story. (I waited a long time between Prentice Alvin and Alvin Journeyman, and I will sure wait again for more stories about these characters.)
The story was entertaining, and there are loose ends all over the place. To me this promises a continuation of the stories and the characters that I love. OSC is great at maintaining character personalities. He builds a person that you would recognize if you met them. I am grateful for the catalyst to blow a whole week of my life just relaxing and enjoying a comfortable and familiar tale.
I can't wait to do it again.
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on 30 August 1998
The Alvin Maker series is one of the few series I will rush out to buy in hardback. I have just been fascinated with the first four books. So, when I saw 'Heartfire', I had to pick it up and purchase it right away. I liked this book a lot. It was not up to the standards of Seventh Son, and it was still good. Alvin going on trial again was a bit lame. The continuing development of the characters was nice, with at least 2 or 3 ongoing characters introduced and fleshed out. The book moved the story into new parts of Card's alternate North America and gave me a better sense of his worldview.
The only downside is that this book was only a moving on experience, sort of like Back to the Future II. The main purpose of Heartfire seems to be to sell installment number 6. It was a good story. It just could have been a better story.
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on 20 July 1999
I love Card's style, and this series is excellent in most ways, but it does worry me that it is starting to turn into more and more of an alternative history of Mormonism. card is a Mormon, and Alvin Smith is his version of Joseph Smith - and its starting to show.
I am distressed when a man as intelligent and talented as Card cannot break free of a creed so downright loopy as Mormonism - a religion with a fairly unpleasant history and which is based on a story which is off the wall even by religious standards. (magic seer stones, an extra biblical book written on gold tablets, the lost tribe of Israel living in the USA - yeah, sure).
I still love his books though - it just worries be this is going to deteriorate into something it wasn't at the start.
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