Some believe that tyranny is the only way to control the darker side of humanity, the long game that will bring peace. “Yes, I killed millions and destroyed worlds, but it had to be done…for the good of the many.” You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, right? How many times must we hear this?!
“Songmaster” took me about half the book to get into and then it suddenly came flooding in on my heart. Like Ender’s Game, the premise is a complicated one for me to stay with. It just hurts too much and, in my opinion, is just…wrong? Or is it? Is there ever a reason to systematically torture young children in the hopes of weeding out the one that will save us all? Does tyranny of the relatively few make the galaxy a better place in the long run?
At first the story is crazy. A whole planet devoted to developing beautiful singers to entertain a chosen few. They are worshipped like beautiful works of art. But these are human beings. Each of them is taken to the “school” as a toddler and taught in a way that gives them no choice in the matter. Of course, there are some that cannot be taught, but they are pretty much useless in the world and end up serving the school in some capacity for the rest of their lives.
But if we put all that real world stuff aside for a moment, it makes a great story. It’s “the chosen one” theme, right? Like Anakin Skywalker or The Golden Child.
The book got exciting for me when it went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. The political strategy was interesting. Characters were playing the long game, which never works in real life, especially when we’re talking about governing a galaxy. Of course, there’s some crazy violence throughout. The “you have to be a crazy murdering tyrant to bring peace to the galaxy” kind of violence. Darth Vadar thought so too.
As usual, what really got me in the feels was the relationship stuff. The connections between characters, the questioning of moral standards. Homosexuality is not acceptable and acted on violently in this society, but homosexuals are shown in a light love and connection. It broke my heart.
Child molestation comes up and is not condoned or put in a positive light. I felt that was very well done. The school gives a young singer to a master and the child is expected to sing as a beloved slave until they are fifteen years old when they return to the school. The music is beautiful and said to inspire love and passion, bring peace, so you can only imagine the implications.
One of my favorite lines was, “Ansset, your love was never slight. You gave without bar, and received without caution, and just because it brought pain doesn’t mean that it is gone.” Pain comes along with love because the only way to love and be loved is to be vulnerable. We cannot build a tight fortress around our hearts and minds and expect to feel anything.
That’s what the singers are taught to do. The build a high wall of control around their own feelings and cut everyone out. I’m not sure how that makes them better singers, or how it makes their songs change people. Somehow, they are able to use their songs as interpreters of the heart, without opening their own. It doesn’t make sense to me.
There was a much larger story, the one about bringing a real peace to the galaxy, not one controlled by violence and fear through tyranny, but it’s one I’m can barely see the outlines of. I’d have to read it all again and bounce it off someone else that read it to get more. The love story is what caught my attention, and I know that love story mirrors what was happening politically and spiritually, I just can’t quite put my finger on it.
Here’s where I feel like I’m lacking when I read. I’ll write this and then put the book down, keep the basic feeling of the story, letting the details and the broader connection fade in my memory. Once again, I’m left wishing there was someone else that had read this recently and wanted to talk about it.
If you’d like to read my first post about this book, go back to “Songmaster by Orson Scott Card: New Read”