Sixteen book reviews and one movie review later, Attack of the Books contributor Stephen Olson says goodbye to the Enderverse… for now. Here are his closing thoughts–his Afterword, if you will–on the series, on reading order of the novels, opinions, what is still to come.
Having submersed myself in the world of Ender’s Game yet again over the last several months, I just have a few final thoughts.
First, one of the most frequent comments I get is on my recommended reading order. While I recommended a mostly chronological order, several other Ender fans had other reading orders with considerable merit. The most common order suggested was to read the books in order of publication (Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, then the Shadow series). This order allows you to see the evolution of Orson Scott Card’s writing style, while also telling most of the individual story arcs in a very sensible order. I actually intend to read in this order next time I read through the series. My only concern with this reading order is that I’ve heard many readers say that they did not enjoy Speaker for the Dead and never continued past that book. (Of course, many readers have also said Speaker for the Dead is their favorite book and how dare I suggest that readers might not enjoy it.)
The alternative reading order I most appreciated was for new readers to read Ender’s Game, then Ender’s Shadow, and then continue reading whichever story arc seems more interesting. What I like about this order is that it gives the reader the option to decide for themselves how to proceed based off of their interest levels in those two books. Really, choosing for yourself has always been an option, regardless of what “experts” such as myself say. Most everything I’ve said in my reviews is just opinion, and ultimately it is up to the reader to decide what to read and when. Just the other day, I was talking to a student in the school library who was looking at First Meetings, which my order suggests reading after all of the novels. She said that she had no interest in reading Ender’s Game, but the short stories in First Meetings sounded pretty cool. And it turns out she loved it.
That brings me to my second point. Yes, I have read the Ender series half a dozen times. Yes, I have ridiculously detailed notes about inconsistencies, running themes, and profanities. But at the end of the day, I’m just a junior high math teacher who had a lot of spare time during his summer vacation. My opinion is not the final word by any means. It is just one word among the many, many words you can find on the Internet, and not the sum total of all thought on Ender’s Game.
In fact, my articles aren’t even the sum total of my own opinion. Reflecting on my reviews, on several occasions I had to stop well short of expressing everything I feel about the subject. In fact, my two-part Speaker for the Dead review came closest to expressing all of my thoughts on a book, and it still could have used a third or fourth part. Perhaps next time I read through the series, I’ll add a new article or two to each story…
My reviews tend to hit home fairly hard that there are various inconsistencies throughout the series. However, in reflecting on it a lot during the course of this series, I’ve decided that perfect continuity is both unrealistic and overrated. Part of this decision comes from noticing the repeated theme of stories being subjective. Several different books have conversations suggesting that stories are told in specific ways for specific reasons, and that stories change in how they are told over time. Perhaps Orson Scott Card knew his narrative would become too complicated to keep the details straight and purposefully included philosophical discussions to make it clear that this is okay.
On the other hand, I prefer to think that instead the Ender series just happens to be a great example of how a story can be told differently in different circumstances to illustrate different points. After all, my core lesson from Speaker for the Dead is how the same story is told again and again from different frames of reference to reveal the entire truth. Even the movie, much shorter on narrative than the book or the original short story, manages to express a different angle of the central story.
Down the road, I plan to check out still other versions of the story in the form of the Ender’s Game comic book series, as well as the prequel novels, which seem to follow a different continuity entirely. However, I’m somewhat Endered out for the immediate future. Moving forward, I plan to read and review various other books that I first read in my younger years. With any luck, my future output will somewhat approximate what I have just described.
Stephen Olson teaches math at North Layton Junior High. When not teaching math, he polices the halls and library of his school, ensuring that students partake of only the best reading material. On the rare occasions he finds himself away from school, Stephen reads, writes, and writes about reading. You can follow him on Twitter @MathTeacherGuy or email him at mathteacherguyATgmailDOTcom.
- Ender’s Game: a Movie Review (attackofthebooks.com)
- New ENDER’S GAME Book Could Spawn Movie Sequels! (geektyrant.com)
- Ender’s Game (mrcsays.wordpress.com)
- Ender’s Game (schlockmercenary.com)
- Question for Supporters of the Boycott of Ender’s Game (volokh.com)
- Awesome Concept Art for ENDER’S GAME (geektyrant.com)