The Theodicy of Worthing
The Blog of Nathan D. Smith

Orson Scott Card's The Worthing Saga is an excellent read. I bought the novel on a lark with some gift card money, and I don't regret it. Card's storytelling has got me itching to begin Ender's Game, among others. One of my favorite features of the Worthing story is that it fits well with my hobby horse, sci-fi and theology.

The story of Jason Worthing is at its core a theodicy. In place of God are men with advanced technology and enhanced genetic abilities, but the question of evil is the same. If someone could prevent pain, why wouldn't they? Card makes a decent argument regarding the problem of evil through the story. I'm not sure it would convince anyone to change their minds on the matter, though I can't say for sure. As for judging the quality of theodicy, I'm not sure where to start. It works for me, but I come at it with a biased perspective. However, I can say that I think science fiction (or literature in general) is a much better medium for theodicy than theological treatise.

The theodicy is not particularly well disguised, nor do I think it is intended to be. The intent is clear from fairly early on in the novel. But it doesn't get in the way. The story and characters are compelling enough in their own right so that some readers might even miss the greater theme yet enjoy the collection nonetheless.

Like all good sci-fi, The Worthing Saga uses scientific or futuristic metaphors to tell a good story. The scientific aspects are really fascinating, and there is a lot of room to spin off and tell more good stories from the premise. Indeed, the last 150 pages or so are actually short stories which are not directly related to the Worthing plot. Card does an excellent job engaging the imagination, and making you want to read more, or perhaps even write your own.

Another fascinating aspect of this book is its apparent compatibility with Mormon cosmology. Card is a Mormon, so as I was reading I kept an eye out for references to his religion. If you are familiar with LDS theology (though perhaps I am ignorant), gods are very much like men with advanced technology and enhanced abilities. So the story fits well with the fundamentals of Mormonism. I must confess, I think it would be pretty fun to be a Mormon theologian. Maybe I'll look up some LDS theology and have a read.

Read this book. And keep an eye for other good science fiction.

Date: 2010-06-11 14:38