Thursday, August 13, 2015

Orson Scott Card's Xenocide and Children of the Mind: A Joint Book Review

The third and fourth books of the Enderverse come in Xenocide/Children of the Mind. In actuality, these texts should be one, and Orson Scott Card admits to splitting them up, perhaps out of time, perhaps to make more money. Either way, they grapple with large issues, as his works often seem to do. Here we explore the savage nature of man, here we contemplate the worth of ancient culture, even when these cultures are transported to new planets, and here we work to combat governmental indiscretion and the industrial military power complex. Each issue, whether it is Japanese pride, Samoan hunger, or Chinese power structures, allows Card to dig into how people tick, something he does remarkably well, while exploring the redemption of one Ender Wiggin.  

 Outside of these thematic ideals, everything picks up a couple decades after Speaker for Dead and continues the exact same central plot line: Lusitania is in peril, three species face annihilation (the third being the descolada virus) and Ender seeks to solve the universe’s problems as he always does.  The piggies are now living in harmony with the colonists, unbeknownst to most men but not to the piggies and Ender’s clan, the buggers are thriving on the other side of the planet, and Miro is set to return from his trip to space with Ender’s sister Valentine having only aged a few weeks during his decades long journey. The two alien, sentient species seek to avoid their extinction by exploring colonization, and the church has made inroads to the piggies. Yet tipping points will have to be reached, violence will have to occur between the species, the buggers will have to come out to humanity, and descolada will have to be beaten. Each possible plot line, from the death of, the symbolic resurrection of Miro, and Ender's personal biological failure, is explored.

On the World of Path, a planet of Japanese descent and culture, the Godspoken, a race of super geniuses with OCD like symptoms, work to solve multiple issues. First they obey the Starways Congress and thus the will of the Gods as the attempt to find the missing fleet headed to destroy Lusitania. Despite the passage of decades since the rebellion of Lusitania, planetary destruction seems more than likely as a fleet equipped with the MD device nears. Such actions will inevitably lead to the discovery and possible destruction of Jane. Yet Jane, by linking this planet and many others, works to reveal the insidious actions of the congress, the manipulation of a race of people not just on this planet but on others as well. Jane, as she works to save herself, also creates a vast web of supporters, those who save her memories and help her to solve the most complex mysteries of the universe.

Can one travel faster than light? Can people be created out of thin air, can multiple species, like multiple races, exist in harmony? Then of course there is Ender, the savior that inadvertently splits his personality and works to right the wrongs of his past in doing so. What is his fate, that of his adopted family, that of his sister, and by proxy that of his best friend Jane? As a joint volume, the texts work fantastically, yet Children of the Mind works far better. Whereas Xenocide drags on an on, asking questions on top of questions, the second half provides the answers. The series ends in style and complexity, in a way that Graff would surely appreciate but perhaps hate.

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