Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Orson Scott Card’s Ender in Exile: A Book Review

Ender in Exile is billed as the immediate follow up to Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game (a fantastic novel on its own) even though the text was not written for many years after. That said, the novel falls far short of its predecessor and is almost out of place in the quartet that forms the foundation of the Enderverse. In essence, this text is billed as a rewrite of the final chapter of Ender’s Game, we return to Eros and witness the plodding along of the children as war hits Earth and the once united front splinters into regional segments. Quickly, all of Ender’s jeesh returns to earth and Ender, who is the savior of humanity begins his journey of self-flagellation and redemption. Along the way he is to shape the universe, to establish the right of colonies to self-rule, and to find himself. Orson Scott Card uses the space to fill in gaps, to link items up, and to force his universe to converge. Unfortunately, force is an accurate description of the endeavor.

Yes, it is interesting to see how Ender’s family reacts to his victory, to watch Valentine struggle with the decision to either stay on Earth or follow her brother to his exile in the stars, but at the same time, the novel often feels like it is just filling space. The space is interesting, but it is just space. Ender is interesting, endearing, but, does anyone doubt that he will be the governor of the first colony when he lands even though the ship’s admiral is arranging a coup? Of course the skillful way in which Ender goes about this transition is fun to read, but do we need to read it, do we need to see an alternate, more detailed discovery of the formic Hive Queen? Does anyone question his reluctance to marry and even engage in teenage hormonal shenanigans when he is still coming to grips with the annihilation of a species?

At the same time, Card is attempting to fill in too many gaps. Whereas before this text Jane found Ender, now Graff knows of Jane, even if not in full, and links them up in terms of money management. This fact, like many of the overlaps between texts in the multiple series of this universe, seems too convenient, too contrived, especially when the battles of Achilles vs. Bean plays out on a distant colony dominated by Indians. These moments take away from golden opportunities and standout as revisionist history, thus diluting an otherwise rich universe.

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