Posted: February 23, 2016 in Book Reviews


Treason by Orson Scott Card

275 pages

Treason is an ancient prison planet. Long ago the galactic republic banished all the families who were leaders of the rebellion to this God forsaken world. Left without technology and only their minds. This is a world with limited hard metals and 2 moons. Each family has for hundreds of years fought for what little iron they could come across. They spend their lives trading to the “ambassador”, an off world visitor for iron in exchange for things of value that could be offered. Each family hopes to acquire enough iron to eventually build a starship and so end their exile.

After many generations on this world the planet eventually is divided into 62 different regions or countries, each controlled by a different family, and each family having a different skill set or role. Our main character, Lanik Mueller is from the nation of Meuller and heir to the throne of that nation. He is from a family of geneticist and is a radical regenerative. This is a genetic trait that cause him to spontaneously grow limbs, and body parts of both genders. He must have regular surgery to remove these parts. His family and most of those within his country also have the ability to heal quickly and regenerate making them nearly impossible to kill. As a radical regenerative however, his traits go beyond the speed healing and hard to kill. He has no control over his ability to grow limbs and parts and because of this he would be condemned to the pens where radical regenerative are harvested for their body parts to be sold to off worlders for iron. His father has no choice but to banish him by means of a futile mission to discover how the Nkumai have obtained so much iron.

His radical regenerative traits are discovered when he starts to grow breasts, uterus, ovaries and other parts, additional legs, arms, etc… These new breasts of his allow him to pose as lady lark and impersonate being an emissary from the nation of Bird in order to infiltrate the Nkumai. This however is just the beginning of what will become an adventure of self discovery beyond anything he could have ever imagined.

Through his adventures he learns the secrets of the most powerful families of Treason. From the land of Ku Kuei  he learns the secret to controlling the flow of time. From the Schwartz he learns how to manipulate and control the physical elements of the world and how to obtain energy from the sun rather than food. Here he is cured from his radical regenerative nature. He soon discovers the Illuders, those who can pose as anyone, from anywhere and manipulate your thoughts and mind. They use illusions and deception to gain power and control over the world. Lanik must confront them in order to save his world from their dangerous control.

This is story of self discovery for Lanik. He must confront the truths that have shattered his world view and learn to re-shape his world view to a new reality of what he thought was not ever possible. That those who are oppressing them are not from off world whom the families or nations trade with to obtain iron but rather those hiding in plain view, manipulating and controlling the affairs through illusion and deceit.

Lanik has been portrayed as the hero in this story. When reading it however I cannot help but wonder if he is truly a hero faced with a difficult decision or a monster and terror that no one can possibly understand. Is he deluded into thinking his own beliefs are true, or he is really the good guy. The Illuders are certainly controlling the nations, however there is nothing in the story that would suggest that they are truly evil. Lanik however destroys and entire nation from whence the Illuders came from, believing that it was the only way to save his world. Was the death of so many innocents truly essential? Were the Illuders evil and bent on harm and destruction? You will have to decide that for yourself when you read this book.

Some have criticized Card for Laniks seeming obsession with his new-found breasts. He seems to become, for a while anyway, obsessed with his new-found womanly features and can’t keep his hands off of himself. It certainly puts a new spin on the idea of transgender-ism. Card has never been one to shy away from controversial themes. But let’s be honest, how many men, if you were to wake up with a new set of very feminine breasts, would be able to keep you hands off them? Lanik must deal with this new reality and like most men, he can’t help himself in such a scenario.

I did find some underlying racist idealism in this book as well, specifically with the black Nkumai people who lived in the trees. The people of this world had some derogatory views of them and placing their culture in the trees living like monkey defecating over the end of tree limbs certainly does nothing to help these underlying racist tones.  Whether these ideals are or were Cards own views or not I do not know, however it was not subtle within the story line at all. I expect this may be offensive to some, for myself, I do not take offense as Card has written on many controversial topics within his writing which are not necessarily his views. I find it to be a component of the story designed for that very purpose to be controversial. That is what makes a writer good, shock value within the story to get people talking about it.

This story however I felt could use more development. Lanik visited many different nations over the course of many years. Each nation he went to he learned more about his world and himself. Each one of these nations and the events that took place within them,  could have very easily been a separate book in and of itself. With 60 + different nations it would certainly make for an interesting series of books exploring the different aspects of humanity. There is so much that Card could have done with this. It would have been a great series of books rather than a single volume.

This is one of Cards earlier works and that shows within the writing in that the story had so much more potential. I have to say however that I really enjoyed this read. Card has a reputation for exploring issues of the psyche and philosophy and he does that well with this book. I would give this book 6/10 book worms

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