Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Homecoming Saga

Go To
The Homecoming Saga is a five-volume Science Fantasy series written by Orson Scott Card.

The series is set 4000 millenia in the future. The first three volumes (The Memory of Earth, The Call of Earth, and The Ships of Earth) take place on the planet Harmony. The central character is fourteen-year old Nafai, youngest son of Rasa, head of a prestigious school and a prominent leader in the martriarchal city of Basilica and Volemak, a wealthy trader and one of the few men in Basilica with political power. Nafai begins hearing voices he thinks are from The Oversoul, Harmony's God-figure. With the help of his older brother Issib, Nafai discovers the true nature of The Oversoul and embarks on a journey to save both it and Harmony itself. A journey that eventually encompasses both the brothers, their parents, their extended family and a couple of unlucky stragglers:

  • Luet and Hushidh - foundling sisters and two of Rasa's prized students (nicknamed "nieces"). Luet has the strongest known connection to the Oversoul and has Prophetic Dreams. Hushidh is a "raveler" able to physically see the emotional connections between people.
  • Advertisement:
  • Elemak and Mebbekew - Volemak's sons from previous marriages.
  • Sevet and Kokor - Rasa's daughters from a previous marriage. Elemak's biological nieces via their father (Elemak's older brother)
  • Eiadh - another of Rasa's nieces and Elemak's love interest.
  • Vas and Obring - Sevet and Kokor's husbands, respectively.
  • Dol - Mebbekew's wife.
  • Shedemei - Another one of Rasa's nieces. A brilliant geneticist.
  • Zdorab - a servant swept up into the group after Nafai and Issib retrieve an artifact Zdorab's employer was secretly keeping. Secretly gay.

The fourth book, Earthfall, deals with the return to Earth, from the start of the trip, the conflicts along the way, and the the discovery of the two symbiotic races who have taken over Earth in humanity's absense: The "Angels" (giant, sapient bats) and the "Diggers" (giant, sapient rats).


The fifth and final volume, Earthborn, is set five hundred years after Earthfall, where the Nafari people (decendants of Nafai and his followers) faces a threat to their kingdom's peace, via a radical religious leader preaching a return to the "old ways" (i.e. oppression of the Diggers within Nafari lands). A threat that is enough to provoke the "The One Who Was Never Buried" (the last survivor of the Harmony expedition) to return to Earth and take a personal hand.

The Homecoming Saga, particularly the first three volumes, is The Book of Mormon reworked into a SciFi Fantasy epic. Most of the main characters from the first three volumes are expies of figures from the Book (for example, Nafai, Issib, Elemak and Mebbekew are basically Nephi, Sam, Laman and Lemuel). It is far less well known or regarded than other Card works, such as Ender's Game, The Tales of Alvin Maker or Empire.

The Homecoming Saga contains examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: Sixteen people from the planet Harmony (half of whom are biologically related to at least two other people in the group) were selected to return to Earth and re-establish the human population. It was established that since the Oversoul (the supercomputer that had been running the planet for millennia) had been running a breeding program for just this situation, any recessive traits that would pop up in such a closed population had been bred out of them (it was also revealed that Harmony was not the only such human-populated planet, nor was it the first to return to Earth).
  • Adults Are Useless: Justified. When one of the teenagers asks the Oversoul why no one in the older generation is standing up to Elemak's tyranny in Earthfall, it explains that they don't dare while he's holding their children hostage. The children being held are free to act (apart from being locked up).
  • Altar the Speed: The main character and his three brothers get quickie weddings with women they barely know so that they'll have someone to repopulate the Earth with. Somewhat justified in that, in their culture, marriages usually last for one year with the option to renew, meaning that most of the parties involved are accustomed to a pretty cavalier attitude toward the whole thing.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The true nature and purpose of the Oversoul could be considered an ancient conspiracy.
  • And I Must Scream: At the climax of Earthborn, Akma is locked into a coma by The Keeper and forced to experience all the pain his actions has caused. Being by being. The Oversoul tells Shedemei that it can detect that he's alive and whole... And as far as it can tell by his brainwave patterns, he's screaming in pain.
  • Break Them by Talking: Hushidh uses her Raveler abilities to mentally break Rashgallavik (who usurped command of Volemak's men in a bid to take over Basillica). Rasa immediately tells her how much she just screwed up: With Rashgallavik broken, there was no one to keep the soldiers in check and they were free to Rape, Pillage, and Burn as they saw fit.note 
  • The Chosen One: Nafai, chosen to be "The Starmaster" (Basically, "Ship's Captain"). Though he was option #4 (Elemak was too selfish and headstrong to trust, Mebbekew too stupid and Issib, disabled from birth, wasn't physically up to the job).
  • Cultural Rebel: Volemak was a true believer in The Oversoul, something seen by Basillican men as the sole territory of women.
  • Die or Fly: When the Oversoul finally gets to speak to The Keeper, the Keeper's advice is basically "let Harmony do what they will." After all that time, they'll either find their way back to Earth on their own or destroy themselves. Either way, The Oversoul's done all it can and then some.
  • Double In-Law Marriage: Brothers Nafai and Issib marry sisters Luet and Hushidh.
  • Earth That Was: The Earth was rendered uninhabitable by human wars, and mankind departed for Harmony, as well as at least forty other planets.
  • The Empath: Ravelers can "see" emotional connections between people, rather than "feel" them.
  • Expy: For the Book of Mormon. In order to get around the serious problems stemming from Joseph Smith's stream of consciousness 19th century narration (stupid names, stupid plots, being really boring, being incredibly racist, wanting to get laid), Card changes most of the characters names (and Nephi [knee-fi] is now Nafai [nyeh-fi]) and definitely changes their culture. Instead of being a random colony of Jews that traveled to the Western Hemisphere in wooden submarines and dealt with the evil brown people living there (turning some white, genociding others), they're space Russians whose ancestors fled Earth after a nuclear war rendered it largely uninhabitable, and are now returning to The Promised Land and dealing with the Angels (giant singing bats) and Diggers (giant rats that smear themselves with mud).
  • Gender-Restricted Ability: It was implied in the earlier books that only women could be Ravelers. Earthborn showed that the ability merely manifested itself differently in males: Rather than seeing the connections between people, a male Raveler intuits them and instinctively tries to draw them to himself. They may not even realize they have a gift.
  • Grapes of Luxury: Dol feeds Meb grapes just prior to them having sex for the first time in The Call of Earth.
  • Heroic Russian Émigré: A very strange example. Instead of emigrating to the US, the Russian Jewish ancestors of the protagonists fled to another planet after a nuclear war. Elemak notes in an Internal Monologue that virtually all the languages near him are identical (being descended relatively recently from Russian) and that the real differences are all cultural.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Downplayed in that Nafai doesn't die, but he voluntarily gives up the Cloak of the Starmaster to Shedemei, in a maneuver to prevent all-out war between his followers and Elemak and the Diggers.note 
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: In Earthborn, Shedemei, now the Jesus-like figure "The One Who Was Never Buried", is living among the Nafari, using her real name. Every one simply assumes she was named after the historical Shedemei and uses the original spelling and pronunciation, not the one adopted to Angel vocal chords. One elderly Digger woman figures it out, but Shedemei has to play coy with her, because she can't trust her not to blurt the fact out, forgetting it's supposed to be a secret.
  • Homeworld Evacuation: The Earth was rendered uninhabitable by human wars, and mankind departed for Harmony, as well as at least forty other planets.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Humanity were such bastards that the Keeper of Earth more or less chased us off to the stars, and genetically altered the populations to receive signals from The Oversoul (super-computers designed to steer mankind's development away from weapons of mass destruction and other planet raping tech). Harmony's Oversoul outright states that he meant to last for a millennium or so before preparing for a trip back to Earth. Humans had been on Harmony for around 50,000,000 years and were no better than when they first arrived. Of course, this was only half of the Aesop. The full Aesop was "since humans can't be any better by their own devices, they just have to trust in God."
  • I Gave My Word: Elemak and Nafai both swear loyalty to Volemak, to end the conflict between them and bring peace to the party. Everyone knows Elemak's word is only good as long as Volemak (already past retirement age when the journey began) was alive.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: The token homosexual character decides that he really doesn't mind sleeping with his wife, once they realize that they really don't have much choice about getting married.
  • Instant Expert: When the refugees from a high-tech society end up living off the land, they need to relearn things like making/using bows and arrows. So they go to their computer god and ask. Unfortunately, transferring thoughts from storage to an active mind would be no better than simply reading about the acts (you'd still have to practice), so they end up receiving muscle memory instead, as that's just reflex rather than conscious thought.
  • Last of His Kind: By Earthborn, Shedemei is the last of the Harmony colonists still alive, sustained by a combination of the Cloak of the Starmaster and cold sleep.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: How Zdorab intends to reproduce, despite being homosexual and therefore not being sexually attracted to his wife.
  • Magic from Technology: The deity of a human colony world, the Oversoul, is in fact an AI in orbit around the planet, which provides certain favored characters with "magical" devices to get them to return to Earth because the society it created is breaking down. Humanity is developing resistance to the Oversoul's Mormonism-inducing mind-control, leading to an outbreak of atheism and violence.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: As they were meant to reestablish humanity on Earth, every woman in the party who could bear children were expected to. Including fifty-something Rasa. Shedemei was (unintentionally) ostracized from the women's social circle as she was the only adult female without children. (Until she and Zdorab decide to rectify that).
  • Moment Killer: Hushdih goes to talk to Luet about her misgivings about her inevitable marriage to disabled Issib. She realizes too late that she interrupted Luet and Nafai's wedding night.
  • Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: The first half of the fourth book (dealing with a crisis during an interstellar voyage with most of the characters as Human Popsicles) is titled "If I Should Wake Before I Die".
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: "Thirsty". It's what her name translates to, but her actual name is never actually spelled out.
  • Pair the Spares: Invoked. The colony ship was gender-balanced, and everyone involved in the project was expected to get married. Zdorab, being gay, paired with Shedemei, the spare female.
  • Physical God: The Keeper of Earth is never outright stated to be God (or even Gaia), but with the stunts She (as the Keeper is usually called) pulls off (sending an image of Nafai's face to a Digger girl 1,000 years before he was born, chasing the bulk of humanity off with a spontaneous Ice Age), She might as well be.
  • Professional Sex Ed: This is an accepted practice in Basilica, referred to as hiring an "Auntie" for a young man's first time.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The technology was all designed to be self-repairing even on the stuff doing the repairs, and last a very long time regardless... but it's been forty million years since this stuff was built. Naturally, some of it broke down anyway and characters are amazed that even more isn't broken.
  • Refused by the Call: Elemak becomes the sworn enemy of his younger half-brother, Nafai, mostly because the Oversoul chose Nafai over him, thereby stealing his legacy. (He was slated to be heir to their father's trading fortune, before Volemak signed on 100% to the Oversoul's cause.) The Oversoul admitted later that Elemak would have been Its first choice as leader, but couldn't trust Elemak not to hijack the entire expedition for his own purposes.
  • Reverse Psychology: For those most capable of resisting its direct control, The Oversoul gave them visions of its desired action and mentally forbade them from doing it, counting on them to "defy his will" and do it anyway.
  • Schizo Tech: A benevolent mind-controlling computer keeps anyone on the planet Harmony from thinking of anything that might lend itself to large-scale warfare, with the end result that they have advanced computers and genetic manipulation, but the horse-pulled wagon is a new invention in the story and arrows are the long-range weapon of choice.
  • Space Age Stasis: Enforced. The planet Harmony is held in a state of enforced, static Schizo Tech via the telepathic interference of the Oversoul, which allows the creation of pretty advanced personal weapons (so that the strong don't have much advantage over the weak), computers, and even genetic engineering, but forbids weapons of mass destruction or even the wheel (since it would allow for empire-building at a scale that could facilitate genocides).
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Hushdih's biological mother crashes her wedding ceremony to let the groom know he's about to marry his daughter.
  • Stupidity-Inducing Attack: To prevent humanity from developing to a point where it can potentially wipe itself out, the Oversoul can make those who delve into forbidden ideas suddenly stupid or forgetful until they move on to something else. It takes a lot of willpower for a human being to overcome this. This ability is so powerful that at one point the Oversoul does it to itself.
    • It was also very clear that some of the protagonists' major blunders were "spurred on" by The Oversoul, in furtherance of the master plan.
  • Super Breeding Program: The Oversoul spent thousands of years selectively pairing people off to produce people who could clearly hear its voice, while also preparing them biologically to be the progenitors of the new human population on Earth.
  • Surprise Incest: Mostly averted: "Thirsty", Luet and Hushidh's biological mother, guided by The Oversoul, arrives in Basillica in time to stop the marriage of Hushidh and General Moozh, her biological father from going past "You may now kiss the bride."
  • Touched by Vorlons: "The Cloak Of The Starmaster" allows the bearer to talk directly to The Oversoul at any time, interface with Lost Technology and well as granting a Healing Factor, an expanded lifespan and the ability to throw bolts of electricity that can incapacitate or kill.
  • Waif Prophet: Luet.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: [Elder brother variation] Nafai longs for the love and approval of his eldest brother, Elemak. He knows this isn't very rational, as Elemak is an openly bullying Jerkass who sees Nafai as a useless mama's boy responsible for ruining his life and who would happily crush his head with a rock.
  • Xanatos Gambit: The Oversoul's main goal is to get to Earth, find The Keeper and receive further instructions as to how it can keep control of Harmony in the face of its inevitable total system crash. Getting humanity back to Earth was the secondary goal. Failing all of that, destroying Basillica and spreading the genes of the population (the people of Basillica most receptive to its remaining influence) to the rest of the world, the fallback goal.

Alternative Title(s): The Memory Of Earth, The Call Of Earth, The Ships Of Earth, Earthfall, Earthborn