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Review: The Lost Gate

A few days ago, Aylwyn told me that she was reading a new book, Orson Scott Card’s The Lost Gate.  I’ve loved just about anything and everything by Card since I first discovered Ender’s Game, and she said she was really enjoying the book so far, so I grabbed it on Kindle.  It starts out with a kid living in an inbred hillbilly community in Virginia, except they’re a bit different from your average hillbillies: they’re gods.  Or, the descendants of them, at least.  Specifically, the bloodline of the Norse gods, whose power has grown weak ever since Loki played his last and greatest prank, forcibly closing all of the Gates that used to connect Earth with the magical world of Westil.  Now there are no more gods, just mages, and pretty weak ones at that, hiding from the rest of the world, which has grown powerful without the aid of (or need for) magic.  Now they’re just trying to survive in a world that has no need for them, and avoid drawing the wrath of other, more powerful families, such as the Greeks.  (Yes, exactly what you’re imagining.  They’ve grown wealthy and powerful in the modern world because they have a bunch of Poseidons using their power to help them earn fortunes in the shipping industry.)

Our protagonist, Danny, is a young boy (he starts out at 12 and is 16 at the end of the novel) who’s precocious and smarter than most of the adults around him.  Anyone familiar with Card’s work will probably be nodding right about now.  He certainly loves that archetype, and as the years go by he’s getting better at using it.  Danny feels more human than Ender Wiggin, partially because he’s living in a more familiar setting (modern-day Earth) but mostly because he has more realistic faults and flaws.  For all his power and all his intelligence, he’s still a kid who likes to show off, and it gets him in trouble at times.  And it draws attention, attention that he can ill afford, because he was born with one of the two magics that are utterly forbidden.

Man-magic–the ability to “possess” a person and take control of them–is regarded as an abomination, something inherently evil that must be suppressed.  But then there’s Gate magic, the ability to open gates (magical teleportation portals.)  This isn’t a problem because it’s evil; it’s a problem because it’s powerful.  Ever since Loki sealed the world off, no one has had any gates.  And whoever gets one first, if they work out the ability to open a gate to Westil, will gain godlike power for his Family, so every Family has a treaty with all the others to never allow a gatemage to live, in order to prevent every other Family from ganging up on them in total war.

And Danny is a gatemage.

To say much more would be to give some important stuff away, so I won’t, except that I really enjoyed the book.  It keeps you guessing, and it was fun to figure out one of the “puzzles” of the narrative really early on, and then realize at the end that that was only the first layer of it.

I was a little bit surprised at the end, though, when I realized that there are a ton of similarities between the mythos that Card has established here and my own Paul Twister stuff, centering around a magical world that was cut off from Earth long ago, and a powerful being who believes they have a very good reason for doing that and keeping it that way.  (And various other details.)  Apparently The Lost Gate came out in 2011, even though I’m just now finding out about it, so I just wanted to state for the record that I’m just now reading this, and any similarities that exist are purely coincidental, because I’ve already got the shape of my mythos all sketched out, for both of the worlds.   (Interestingly, I saw another uncanny similarity in Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, and I know that he’s been a long-time fan of Card’s work as well.  We all write very different stories, but surprisingly similar details keep popping up independently…)

Anyway, I found The Lost Gate very well written, and I’ve already started on the second book, The Gate Thief, which picks up where the first one left off.  Definitely worth reading, and I think if you enjoy the Tales of Paul Twister, you’d like this as well.

Comments (9)

  1. Aylwyn

    😀 Figures you would finish it before me!

    Card is one of my favorite authors too, ever since reading “Ender’s Game”, and the book is better than the movie, btw, just in case anyone doubted that. 😛 I just discovered this book too, so had to tell Anthony about it, since I know he likes Card almost as much as I do, though I expected that he had already read it, so I was surprised when he hadn’t heard of it either. 🙂 It’s a fun read, and goes by fast! So I’m glad that I’ve got the second one already. 😀

    I’m a book-aholic, which is why I’m always mentioning books I’ve read to Anthony and my other friends. At least he reads so fast that I don’t have to worry about them distracting him from his writing for to long, otherwise I might have to try to stop doing it! 😛

  2. scifi_chic

    From what you’ve written, I want to suggest reading L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s Corean Chronicles, but I can’t articulate why; maybe it’s the young protagonist in the first three. I’ve read Ender’s Game, but none of the rest of them; so, it’s really more a vague notion that you might like them, rather than any strong feeling that you definitely will.

    • Aylwyn

      Hi,

      I *love* L. E. Modesitt! I think I’ve mentioned him to Anthony before, and if I haven’t, it’s a horrible oversight! 😛 I was just reading one of Modesitt’s books the other day and commenting on it to him actually, but I don’t remember if I said who the author was. 🙁

      I’ve read all of the Imager Portfolio, and I’m working on the books in another series of his, but I don’t think I’ve read the series you’ve mentioned. If you haven’t read the Imager series yet, it’s awesome! The magic system is cool and I love how indepth and creative Modesitt is with the world and it’s history, which he goes into in the series. 🙂 It is definitely worth the read! All of his stuff is though, at least from what I’ve read. 🙂

      • Scifi_chic

        I’ve only read most of the Chronicles and The Octangonal Raven, but I really should go look for some more. I seem to flit from author to author; which probably partly stems from the fact that I used to go to the library for books, and the didn’t often have full sets of things (but it’s probably part of my nature too 😀 ).

        Also, it’s nice to see that someone who knows the author here also suggests Modesitt; it reassures me that I’m not completely off base. It also encourages me to suggest Christoper Stasheff; I’ve mostly read parts of his “Rogue Wizard” series, and his “A Wizard in Rhyme” series (the first is science fiction with fantasy overtones, the second an alternate Earth story with magic revolving around verse).

  3. Rizban

    I read Lost Gate when it first hit paperback, and it’s definitely a good one. I’ve been a fan of most of Card’s stuff over the years too. I’ve been meaning to pick up The Gate Thief now that it’s out.

    The Homecoming Saga was definitely a long allegory for Mormonism much like a SciFi Chronicles of Narnia was for Protestant Christianity. It was still pretty good though.

    The only one I didn’t really like was the Alvin Maker series. The Mormonism went from allegory to outright preaching a little too strongly for me there, going into it in all but name, which I felt really detracted from the story.

    • Yeah, it’s kind of blatant if you happen to know what you’re looking at. Although I have to admit, that’s the one thing about Card that really disappoints me: he’s taking entirely too long to come out with the last Alvin Maker story, and the series is just left hanging. 🙁

      I’ve deliberately avoided religious themes in the Paul Twister stories, mostly because one of my guiding principles was “create something that Brandon Sanderson would never write,” and he always writes about highly religious societies. (Well, almost always. I was a little bit shocked when I finished Steelheart and suddenly realized, “I just read a Sanderson novel with zero religious themes!”)

      • Rizban

        Personally, I’ve found that I don’t really like religious themes in scifi and only appreciate them in fantasy if it’s not a real world religion. I study spiritual beliefs, because I find them fascinating, but when someone starts mucking about with real world stuff in fiction, it seldom goes well. It seems that the author either gets to preaching about his own religion, or he tries to incorporate religions he knows little to nothing about, resulting in caricatures that make the characters feel less real.

        Now, made up fantasy religions can be pretty interesting when added. I like to see what the author creates for those and how he sees things. Personally, I loved the way you handled the Fates in Paul Twister and wouldn’t mind seeing some more hints of some organized worship of them pop up in other parts of the stories. Granted that you’ve already done a whole book essentially dedicated to Fate, so I wouldn’t expect it to be very prominent in future stories.

        Speaking of writing though, have you considered writing any short stories of some of Twister’s early exploits? I think getting to see him bumble through some of his early attempts before the first book would be a lot of fun.

        • Personally, I’ve found that I don’t really like religious themes in scifi

          So you didn’t like Star Wars? 😉

          Now, made up fantasy religions can be pretty interesting when added. I like to see what the author creates for those and how he sees things.

          Right. That’s one of the things I really enjoy about Brandon Sanderson’s work. He does stuff with fantasy religion that I’ve never seen before.

          A lot of authors, you end up with some sort of Crystal Dragon Jesus type thing or just some retread of the same silly fantasy pantheon you’ve seen over and over. But he tends to take it seriously. Religion isn’t just there for flavor, or to provide social commentary; it’s a part of the world, a part of society, and a real part of people’s lives, and there’s real diversity. It’s kind of silly to see a story that implicitly assumes One Religion That Everyone Follows; that’s never been the way things are in the real world, and he understands that.

          As for going back over Paul’s backstory, that would definitely be interesting, and I’ve thought about it a few times. I’ll probably get around to that eventually. 🙂

          • Rizban

            Star Wars? One word: Midichlorians.

            I liked it up until then. Really though, I’ve always preferred Trek (just not the Prophets). The Goa’uld and Ori were interesting in Gate, but the Ori got pretty silly by the end.

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