Red Prophet

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In RED PROPHET, Orson Scott Card continues the epic of the founding of an alternate America that he began with SEVENTH SON. Alvin Miller, Jr., now eleven, becomes involved in the multifaceted conflict of groups trying to place their stamp on the future of America.

These groups are led by fictionalized versions of William Henry Harrison, Tecumseh, the Shawnee Prophet, and the Marquis de Lafayette, among others. Ta-Kumsaw and his brother, the Red Prophet, try in different ways to unite eastern Indian tribes into a force that can preserve their cultural strengths in the face of European settlement. Under the influence of the visions of the Prophet, Alvin learns about European and Indian magic and finds that his powers encompass both varieties. He uses his developing ability to ensure that the tragic misunderstanding and murder between Indians and settlers lead toward the Prophet’s utopian vision of a Crystal City rather than toward the America that has actually developed. The Prophet characterizes the actual America as having lost the unique contributions to culture the Indians might have provided.

The narrative begins more slowly than Card’s other novels, dramatically presenting the various factions involved: the settlers, the Indians, and the French. Then it shifts into Card’s usual fast pace as Alvin and his brother, Measure, undergo capture, terror, and rescue by several factions. The story also includes alternate versions of historical events such as the battle of Tippecanoe.

Alvin’s experiences of visions with the Red Prophet, Ta-Kumsaw, and Taleswapper produce magnificent set pieces, all indicating the power of Card’s imagination and the depth of his own vision of the America that might have been and might still be.