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Publisher's Summary

In a not-too-distant future that is not quite ours, there has been a major scientific breakthrough. It is a way to open windows into the past, permitting historical researchers to view, but not participate, in the events of the past.

In one of the most powerful and thought-provoking novels of his remarkable career, Orson Scott Card interweaves a compelling portrait of Christopher Columbus with the story of a future scientist who believes she can alter human history from a tragedy of bloodshed and brutality to a world filled with hope and healing.

©1996 Orson Scott Card; (P)2005 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A bold and compassionate alternative history filled with believable historical and fictional characters." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Joe
  • Norwalk, OH, USA
  • 02-16-09

Great book

This book comes very close to being as great a story as his best book Ender's Game; however, it is totally not related to the Ender's series. It happens in our far distant future with people having equipment that allows them to watch the past. With the invention of the next generation of equipment, stronger and more sensitive to viewing the past - someone in the past in a drug induced dream becomes aware that the future is watching them. This really starts the storyline moving.

  • Overall


Excellent book as I come to expect from Orson. His ideas and storytelling ability make for a very enjoyable read. He merges history and science fiction to give us some thought provoking views on how our world might be, both in the future of the book and in our own reality.

  • Overall

OSC goes PC, in a big way

If you think the world would have been better off if Western civilization had been stopped in its tracks in 1492, then you will probably like this book. If you think Western civilization is a scourge upon the Earth and everyone (else) needs to live in a mud hut or the planet is doomed, then you will absolutely LOVE this book. I can't believe that not one of the reviews of Pastwatch I read on Audible even mentioned the looney ideological premise upon which it is based, which I believe I have accurately characterized above.
Do people really believe such things? I suppose they do. Or at least it's very fashionable to say you do as you drive around in your car talking on your cell phone. Perhaps I am just not "open minded" enough to swallow this sort of guff, even in a science fiction story. Maybe the world would have been better off without Shakespeare, Newton, and Locke, without science, reason, democracy and other such Western novelties. Maybe it would have been a kinder, gentler, cleaner, and saner world if instead the glorious Aztec civilization had dominated the world. Eat your heart out, European dogs! No, somehow I don't think so, but if you do, or like to feel good about yourself because you do, then this book is definitely for you. Enjoy. For those who don't, be warned, it's gonna be a trying thirteen hours.

12 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

SIFI reader

I loved all the other books I read for OSC, however, this one was a disappointment for me! The reason is that is crosses a fine line between fiction and distorting historic facts and at times, trivializing certain beliefs and religious symbols and facts. I'm all for fictional history with good twists, but to use actual historic figures (like Noha), and distorting the historical facts in all religious books is another matter! After going to almost quarter of the book I couldn't go any further and I was very uncomfortable with the connotation and the clear distortions and intentional misinterpretations of the past!
For example, to say that the Muslims were enslaving people in Africa is a clear example of Olsen’s own prejudge towards Islam! One of the main messages of Islam is that everyone is equal in the eyes of God and it put a lot of rules to reduce slavery that existed long before Islam came.

2 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Couldn't get through the first three hours.

This is not Ender's Game of Ender's Shadow. The performers did the best they could but this work was dull as a box of rocks. I gave up on it toward the end of the third hour.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • Clara
  • Roseburg, Or, United States
  • 12-03-13

Warning: Christian conversion of Indigenous people

This is a hard book for me to rate. I know Orson Scott Card is a mormon and normally I won't buy his books as I do not wish to financially support mormons in any way. But this was on sale and I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for time travel, so I bit.

The reason Pastwatch is hard for me to rate is because Orson Scott Card is a really good writer. The story is interesting and while the future characters might be a bit skimpy compared to the historical characters, for the most part they are all well written. The premise - future people going back from a ruined planet to deliberately change human history for the better- is thought provoking. The historical segments are interesting and believable. Over all, this is one of the better Audible books I have listened to in a while, as far as the quality goes.

But here's where the trouble is for me (and it's a bit of a spoiler alert, so if you're okay with christians converting Indigenous people then buy the book and read no further). The basis of this story is the idea that if only christianity had been introduced to the New World in a nicer way, everything would have been okay- races would respect each other, the planets resources would not have been over extended, we would live in a kinder, gentler world etc, etc. This is just fatally flawed to me. I don't think religious missions are ever good, and I don't think native people should have been converted to christianity (and I live in the Navajo Nation, so I get to see the painful fall out from this every day). Mostly, I resent religious proselytizing mixed in with my time travel. This left a bad taste in my mouth and the wish that I had stuck to my no-supporting-mormons rule, sale or no sale.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Brilliant Book

I have been an Orson Scott Card fan for years, and I never thought he could top Ender's Game, but he has. What a unique, creative, and gripping story.

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Patty
  • Spotsylvania, VA, United States
  • 07-07-08


I LOVE Orson Scott Card - but this book was the most boring book I have ever listened to. It was background noise at most.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


At times I was near tears imagining a world as described.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Brewster, NY, United States
  • 01-05-08


I love Mr. Cards other works but this one was horrible. The first 8 hrs is like being in history class in HS. Its like he forgot about the science fiction part and felt like telling us columbus's life story. Just didnt work for me.
I really dont think he wrote this book. Not his style. Or at the very least he didnt contribute much to it.

4 of 13 people found this review helpful