In the Image of God: Theme, Characterization, and Landscape in the Fiction of Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is arguably the most successful, and certainly one of the most talented, writers of fiction the LDS community has yet produced. For a Mormon audience, he has produced several short stories; a number of plays; a historical novel, Saints (originally published as A Woman of Destiny, winner of the 1985 award for best novel from the Association for Mormon Letters); and an assortment of miscellaneous items, including Saintspeak, a humorous dictionary of LDS terms, and scripts for many of the popular video and audio tapes on LDS Church history and scripture. Card is perhaps best known, however, for his science fiction and fantasy: over sixty short stories, many of which have been collected into his recent omnibus volume, Maps in a Mirror, and over a dozen novels, including the award-winning Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, the yet-to-be-completed Tales of Alvin Maker series (based on the life of Joseph Smith), the new Homecoming series (The Memory of Earth and The Call of Earth published so far), and Lost Boys, a recent excursion into mainstream horror. A several-times winner of the prestigious Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, Card is clearly an important figure within the science-fiction-and-fantasy landscape, notable not only for his popularity, but also for the high standards of quality in his work.

In the Image of God: Theme, Characterization, and Landscape in the Fiction of Orson Scott Card by Michael Collings represents the first book-length study of Card’s fiction, though numerous shorter articles have appeared. As such, it deserves particular attention, not only for its own sake, but also because it sets an agenda of sorts for future Card studies. Each of the seven chapters stands almost as a separate essay on some aspect of the broad triple focus of the title (theme, characterization, landscape), but together they create a suggestive, carefully drawn picture of Card’s writing as a whole, as well as provide interesting observations on a number of individual works. Throughout, Collings focuses attention on elements that are clearly central to a proper understanding of Card’s work, yet not so obvious as to preclude the possibility of fruitful and intriguing commentary. For someone who is interested in exploring the manifold implications and ideas in Card’s work, this volume is a good place to start.

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