The Folk of the Fringe

by Orson Scott Card
Reviewed date: 2008 Jan 6
306 pages
cover art

It's a rare science fiction book that portrays religion positively. The Folk of the Fringe is one such book. But because the religion portrayed positively is Mormonism, many people are frightened or disgusted by it. They shouldn't be. It's a perfectly good book, regardless of what one thinks about Mormonism.

The stories are set in a post-apocalyptic America reminiscent of David Brin's The Postman. Though Mormonism features heavily in each story, none of them are really about religion. The theme is belonging. Each story is written from the perspective of an outsider, someone who doesn't belong to the community around him, and who is desperately seeking for that sense of belonging.

  • West: Jamie Teague helps a group of Mormons on a pilgrimage from Greensboro, North Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah. Though initially hostile to their faith, Teague eventually becomes a true believer and joins their community.
  • Salvage: Deaver Teague raids the Salt Lake Temple hoping to find gold, but he finds only spiritual treasure.
  • The Fringe: A crippled teacher confined to a wheelchair is kidnapped by some of his students.
  • Pageant Wagon: Deaver Teague meets a family who runs a traveling pageant show. In the family, Deaver finds his sense of belonging. (Although the pageant is a Mormon show, Deaver never seems to embrace or believe the faith.)
  • America: A fantasy story. Having been betrayed by the European people, the land of America raises up a savior to return the land to the native tribes.
  • Author's Note: On Sycamore Hill: Orson Scott Card recounts his experience at the Sycamore Hill Writers Workshop. As a Mormon, Card never feels completely at ease among Gentiles (non-Mormons.) As Card says, "These guys were Americans, not Mormons; those of us who grew up in Mormon society and remain intensely involved are only nominally members of the American community."
  • Afterword by Michael Collings: A short essay about religion in the SF of Orson Scott Card.

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