Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in Stephen Olson’s series of posts reviewing, contemplating, considering, and discussing Orson Scott Card’s award winning Ender’s Game novels. You can find his other posts on the Ender’s Game series here.
When I heard about a book that functioned as a direct sequel to Ender’s Game, I thought that sounded pretty cool. In particular, I’d heard that it would tie up one of the loose ends from the Shadow series, and that sounded great. So I picked up a copy of Ender in Exile at the library and read it in two days.
Ender in Exile takes place after the majority of the action in Ender’s Game. Technically, most of the book happens between two paragraphs in chapter 15 of Ender’s Game, but that’s a fairly meaningless distinction. Anyway, Ender in Exile mostly focuses on Ender as he deals with the impact of what happened in Ender’s Game while journeying to become the governor of the first human colony outside of our solar system. It also includes segments about Ender’s parents and siblings, Colonel Graff, colonists headed to and living in the same colony as Ender, and colonists headed to and living in another colony.
This variety of different characters and events happens because large segments of the book started out as short stories that Orson Scott Card wrote for his online magazine, Intergalactic Medicine Show. On the one hand, I like the variety of different things happening and each character has a unique perspective on events. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like the book lacks focus as we jump from place to place. My first time reading Ender in Exile, I certainly felt like some portions of it were disjointed. However, in my most recent reading that I just finished, I really appreciated how we see so many events from so many perspectives, and yet it all ties together with the theme of Ender trying to figure out what to do with his life now.
Much of the story here takes place in inner monologue. Each perspective character gives the reader great insight into their deeper thoughts and motivations. I know I talked about it already in the last two reviews, but I love to see the subtle shifts in tone when we read from a different vantage point. These characters are all very well thought-out , and it is clear that Card planned out their various plot arcs and personalities to the best possible effect. In several instances, I felt a lot of sympathy for characters who act somewhat as antagonists. Other times, I felt frustrated with the protagonists. The lively ethical dilemmas work very well, and I enjoyed each individual character and conflict.
Speaking of conflict, Ender in Exile has several of my favorite conflicts in the entire series. Most of these involve interpersonal power struggles, and I find the development and resolution of each struggle very satisfying. Characters say and do some of the most incredibly clever things at the perfect moments. Ender’s sister, Valentine, acts somewhat as an impassive observer to these conflicts, and I really enjoy the way her portions are written as she tries to understand and give advice while not knowing all of the intricacies of the situation.
As always, I love the thoughtful ideas that the characters think about and discuss. In several places, we read about the idea of acting in ways contrary to our nature. For instance, one character notices that her mom always acts like a happy person and wonders if that makes her happy. Another time, Ender points out that another character tried his best to act like a good person and eventually became a good person. I’m fairly certain that this is where I came up with the idea of telling students that I just act like a math teacher, and when they inevitably give the rebuttal that they are learning math from me, I say that that just means I’m a very good actor. Other neat ideas that I related to involved thoughts on what leadership means and what we need most from our parents.
And as always, I found continuity to be a bit of a problem in Ender in Exile. However, it rears its ugly head in a different way, with more than just the occasional irreconcilable detail. In this book, for whatever reason, Orson Scott Card decided to keep mentioning of events from the Shadow series, which is taking place at the same time, light-years away back on Earth. On one occasion, Valentine receives a letter from Peter Wiggin that basically details the situation at end of Shadow of the Hegemon. Graff always seems to be reminding characters of what happened in those books as well. Ender spends a good portion of a tense encounter explaining details about Bean. I guess I feel like Card wants to make sure the reader knows all of these tidbits, but in many cases they simply do not affect the situation at hand.
Another issue goes back to my comments on the book feeling disjointed. Almost every book in the series has small segments at the beginning of each chapter that provide context and information. In some books, these take the form of conversations between background characters about the events taking place, while other books feature emails, letters, or passages from books. In most of the books, I really enjoy the small pieces of information provided. However, in Ender in Exile, the pre-chapter email messages often take up a lot of space. One chapter has five emails sent back and forth, which end up almost as long as the chapter itself. I guess I just feel like this breaks up the action a bit. If the same information could have been provided in more succinct form, that might have worked much better.
Nonetheless, I still greatly enjoyed Ender in Exile the first time I read it and I greatly enjoyed it this last read-through. It helps to fill in some of the gaps between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, while also helping to tie up some of the loose ends from the Shadow series. The first time I found a soft-cover copy in Barnes & Noble, I had no hesitation in buying it, warts and all.
- Language: Some swearing.
- Violence: Tense family situations. One violent scene.
- Sex: Some discussion of sex.
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.