The Ships of Earth, by Orson Scott Card is the third book in the Homecoming Saga.
The Ships of Earth begins with Rasa, Nafai, Mebbekew, Elemak, Luet, Hushidh, Kokor, Dol, Obring, Vas, Shedemei and Sevet venturing out into the desert to meet up with Nafai’s father, Volemak, and Zdorab, a friend of Volemak, in their temporary settlement near the city of Basilica. After reaching Volemak, the group is destined to travel afar and reach the spaceships that they are to take to return to earth to repair the Oversoul. Turning back is not an option, as the group has been exiled from their home city for rebelling against the new leader. However, many of the travelers, Kokor, Sevet, Obring, Vas and Mebbekew in particular, wish to stay in a civilization, no matter where it may be. Elemak, who is spiteful towards Nafai for being the Oversoul’s representative, thus a hero of some sort, seizes the opportunity to rebel against Nafai and head to a nearby town in mid-voyage. He, the leader for the time being, decides to announce this, knowing that if he announced his decision to stop their journey, Nafai would declare mutiny. Elemak also knows he has much support from those who wish to go to a city and that if Nafai rebels, an act such as Elemak killing Nafai would not be accepted with negative feelings. In fact, such a deed would have been generally welcomed since Nafai was the cause of everyone’s exile from Basilica in the first place.
Fortunately, Elemak’s plan does not work because when Nafai rebels and he is about to kill him, the Oversoul intervenes and uses it’s influential powers to temporarily make Elemak stupid and unable to kill Nafai. Seeing the Oversoul’s power, Elemak declares he is now completely loyal to the Oversoul and Nafai, although it is just a show to put on until another opportunity arises
Upon the group’s arrival at Volemak’s camp, they are informed that they are to stay stationary for a year at camp. After a year has passed, all but Shedemei and Zdorab have a child, and it is time to move on. The group finds they are to venture east across the desert to the mountains bordering the sea. With Elemak no longer openly loathing Nafai, peace ensues.
However, as soon as the travelers pass a town, chaos once again takes over, and the desire to return to civilization still runs strong in many people. This time it is Vas who begins the conflict by getting rid of each of the pulses, guns used to hunt, in a series of intentional ‘accidents’. With no way to obtain meat, it seems as though at least temporary return to civilization. Luckily, Nafai learns from the Oversoul about bows and arrows, and suggests that they find other ways of hunting. Seeing an opportunity to at least drain Nafai of his respect, Elemak takes command once again and declares that if Nafai is able to hunt and kill one animal with a bow an arrow in the period of a day, they will continue their journey, if not, they will return to civilization. Elemak is sure Nafai will not be able to do this, and once again overlooks the Oversoul’s knowledge and close connection with Nafai.
In one night, Nafai is able to construct a working bow and arrows with the Oversoul’s aid, and before noon is up, is able to hunt and kill an animal. Once again, Elemak is defeated and sinks back down into false worship. They finally reach the end of the desert, and the group once again stops and sets up camp for roughly 3 years at the foot of the mountains.
The travel over the mountains is once again without conflict, for Elemak has no opportunities to take advantage of Nafai in some way or another. After reaching the other side of the mountains, the Oversoul leads the group to an island on which an ancient city rests, always on the verge of completely falling down, but protected for many years from humans by the Oversoul. Once camp is set up at this location, nothing happens for many years except for new additions to families and simple living. After about 5 years, Nafai wonders very much why the Oversoul has stopped contact with him. Talking to the Oversoul, Nafai discovers the Oversoul, as a computer, has gotten stuck in a loop. Many of its memory banks have been rotting away, and it lacked the proper information to lead further to the next destination. After a night discovering what was missing, Nafai unveils the location where the ships to go to Earth are. Venturing off in the middle of the night to this area, Nafai does not tell anyone to stall the chaos that is bound to ensue when the now content humans learn they once again have to move.
Nafai finds an area in the mountains where no matter which way he heads and how hard he focuses on heading that direction, he always ends up somewhere other than where he needs to go. Knowing that the Oversoul has the power to make humans ignorant, forgetful and careless, Nafai figures that this is a strong wall that has been erected to keep humans out. After much thinking and brooding, Nafai lures a baboon into the area with a fruit thrown by him, and follows the baboon until he is inside the forbidden area. After walking a short distance, Nafai finds an invisible wall, which he cannot pass through and seems to have odd characteristics like feeling liquid when it is really solid. Nafai realizes that if he approaches the wall with enough force, it lets organic material through, but not clothing. Stripping bare, Nafai hurls himself at the wall and is soon on the other side with no injuries whatsoever, but finds there is no oxygen. Frustration and panic hits Nafai as he finds he cannot reach the other side again, but a strong wind soon knocks him out through the barrier. The Oversoul explains to Nafai that it was unaware of the wall existence because of memory loss until Nafai came, and would have saved Nafai the trouble of near suffocation. The Oversoul also tells Nafai he is to be the captain of the space ship, the shipmaster, and leads him to the area where everything is kept. Nafai passes through an odd block of ice and gains the shipmaster’s cloak, a futuristic enhancement that allows him immediate access to the Oversoul’s memory and practical invincibility.
Back at the camp, most of the inhabitants are angry they have to change their lives, which they were very satisfied with. Elemak and Mebbekew plot to kill Nafai as he returns. With his newly acquired knowledge, Nafai already knows this. He rushes home, seemingly blind to what is going on, although Nafai really plans to let the arrows hit him and prove to Elemak once and for all that the Oversoul is truly powerful and his destiny to return to Earth is inevitable. All goes as both Nafai and Elemak planned, except that Nafai does not really die. He is shot in the neck and close to the heart, and after a few minutes of shock, stands up and pulls the arrows out. Although pain still remains, Nafai is healed instantaneously, and tells everyone what has happened and how they will venture off to Earth in the ships soon.
note: yes, I am aware that it would be more logical to node the first two books of the Homecoming Saga before the third, but I had this old book report from 8th grade that was just begging to be noded.