Monday, November 24, 2008

Book/Magazine Review: Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free, bite-sized book/magazine reviews.

Ender's Game is one of my favorite sci-fi novels and while many have been disappointed with the sequels (shades of Frank Herbert's Dune), I gladly devoured them. I think part of the problem was that Speaker for the Dead and its sequels had a different vibe from Ender's Shadow and its ilk. Between the two, Ender in Exile is a better fit for the latter, and builds upon the events established in the latest book in that series, Shadow of the Giant.

Ender in Exile
however is this weird novel as far as chronology is concerned. It's a partial ret-con of the final chapters of Ender's Game and this is definitely an Ender Wiggin story (and perhaps a prelude to Speaker for the Dead). On the other hand, those who followed Ender's Shadow until Shadow of the Giant will want to read this book as it gives closure to some of the unresolved plots in that series.

That aside, how does Card's latest novel fare? While I have some issues with it, I found myself enjoying the book for the most part. It's not as enticing or as tight as Ender's Game but that was never on my list of expectations. Instead, this zooms in on Ender's guilt and what happened after the events of the original novel. The author's strength is his dialogue as much of the tension revolves around conversations and debates. Even the climatic battle at the end can be summed up as a glorified verbal spar between the hero and the antagonist.

Dialogue is Card's playground for elucidating his philosophical musings and bouncing off various ideas. For the most part, it works as several of his protagonists are smart, intelligent, and articulate. At other times though, it feels artificial, especially when it's neither Ender nor Valentine who's participating. If you can stretch your disbelief during those moments, you'll do fine with this book. Card doesn't seem to have lost his touch as he includes playful banter at appropriate moments, adding levity to what is typically a heavy subject matter.

Card had me hooked during the entire experience and those wanting to revisit the Ender universe won't be disappointed. I'm not a big fan of revisionism yet that's perhaps a testament to how long this series has been going. My only word of warning is for new readers: if you haven't read Ender's Shadow and the books that followed after it, some of the characterization may seem to have sprung out of nowhere, such as the behavior of Ender's parents, when in truth it was seeded in the aforementioned books. And of course there's the question of how much you sympathize with the protagonist if you haven't read Ender's Game.

Overall, Ender in Exile works as a sequel. Again, it's not perfect and perhaps it's not everyone's cup of tea but those looking for an Ender fix will be satiated.

3 comments:

Lyn said...

I wrote a review of Ender in Exile that should be up at SFReader.com before too long. Thanks for your perspective - I think we have the same impression. I really like Card's dialog and twists, and while this book isn't as tight as Ender's Game, it does explain a lot and is a satisfying "missing-link" to all the other stories. Lyn from ResAliens

stacey @ bookthirty said...

Thanks for your insight here. I recently read Ender's Game for the first time and moved right on to Ender in Exile. I was frightfully confused on many points, especially Card's depiction of Ender's parents. I reviewed "Exile" on my own blog, and wondered aloud at what was going on. I realize now, after reading your and others' reviews, that I'm at a disadvantage not having read some of the other Ender sequels. Still, there's enough in the books to enjoy, and I'm still definitely a fan.

I'm Lyn, the Pub Owner... said...

My review is now up at SFReader.com.