Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ender in Exile

There is something to be said about waiting for a book to come out. You read the buzz on the internet or hear someone say something, then the anticipation builds until you finally get your hands on the book and crack it open. I love the build-up for a much anticipated book almost as much as I love reading it. Yes, I was one of those people who pre-ordered the last Harry Potter book on Amazon, then kicked myself when I could have gone to the supermarket down the street at midnight and picked up a copy after waiting in line for an hour (which my hubby did with our brother-in-law). Waiting is half the fun, which is why it was such a treat when Ender in Exile finally made it into my greedy hands.

Orson Scott Card's Ender universe (Enderverse?) is one of my most favorite, most re-read series of books. Ender's Game is considered a staple of science fiction/political intrigue/psychological drama and if you haven't read it yet, you are missing out. It's one of my family's favorite books and mentioning a passage from it can spark a three-hour discussion. My sister even bought my brother a t-shirt that said, "The Enemy's Gate is Down" which is only cool if you've read the book. Hint: read the book. I don't care if you say you hate science fiction because this book is for everyone. Like excitement? Love clever dialog and intrigue? Have kids? Ever been a kid? This book is for you. No romance, however. Ender is only six at the beginning and twelve at the end. Look for romance in Speaker for the Dead, the sequel, and it's minimal at best. In fact, for romance, read the Ender's Shadow series. There's a smidgen there. I digress.

I'm writing this review mostly for those who have read Ender's Game (i.e. my family) and haven't read Ender in Exile or even heard it had been published, so I won't be going into detail describing events in Ender's Game. I assume you've read it. Ender in Exile picks up minutes after Ender's Game ends. In Speaker for the Dead, you get a much older, more experienced, more at peace with himself Ender. Exile is Ender right after the defeat of the Formics and before he heads off to his first colony. You learn what Valentine and Peter do to make sure Ender never returns to Earth and the maneuvering Ender's parents do to ensure his safety. This book covers the voyage through space, with a lovely little romance between Ender and a colonist girl from Italy. Don't worry, they are fifteen years old by then, so it's not the awkward twelve-year-old kid kind of romance. And let's face it, Ender isn't an ordinary kid, so even romance isn't ordinary for him. On the space voyage, he also deals with scheming military officers and hysterical passengers. On the planet, he's got a whole group of people who've been there for forty years to work with, but surprisingly, Card spends hardly any time there. It's a pit stop for the ending of the story, which is very cool and has to do with Bean. Non-Ender readers, have I lost you? Good. Go read Ender's Game.

What I loved so much about this book is that it explained how Ender became the man that you read about in Speaker. He is so calm, so at one with who he is and what he is meant to be that you wonder what it took to reach that point. Frankly, his childhood should have damaged him beyond repair and at the beginning of Exile, you see that damage. You see the broken young man and the obsession over his sins. You see the disconnect with people around him, the way he distances himself from the kids that he loves and trusts and guided to victory. You see what should have happened after what he went through. It feels very true, very right. Then Card leads you through Ender's process in dealing with everything and how he uses his superior intellect and superior capability to love and understand to then heal. Again, it feels honest and true. You heal along with him as you read.

This book was exactly what the doctor ordered. I found no flaw in it. A second reading might do it, and when Caren reads it she'll probably find ten, but she's just better at that then me. I'm just basking in the awesomeness of it all. It has Card's lightening fast verbal exchanges between characters, which are abundant in his books, and the characters' motivations are stacked with more layers than baklava. Just as Ender comes to truly love those that surround him, you come to truly love Card's characters. You love them because you understand them completely, which is the whole point of this entire series. All nine books of it. I might just start over again over Christmas, as a present to myself.


  1. Ooh, thanks for the review. I'm glad it's good. I love the Ender books, too, and apparently I've been in a literary black hole, because I didn't know this was coming out until last week when my friend mentioned it in passing. I should reread Ender's Game before I read this one so I can get the full meaning in Ender in Exile.

  2. Oh I love how you write. What talent.
    The written word comes from the pen as though you are speaking and I can hear your voice. You make me giggle. Can't wait to see you Christmas.
    much love

  3. Oh good, I'm glad you got your hands on this one! I loved Ender's Game, but I wasn't as attached to the adult Ender in the later books. So I'm really excited to read another one with the child version. It sounds like I won't be disappointed!

  4. I finally got my hands on Ender in Exile and just finished it yesterday. It was a fun read, and you're right -- it felt true to the original Ender's Game story. I really liked how it also served as a follow-up to the Shadow books and tied up some loose ends there. Since you already mentioned all of its virtues (and I agree with you on those points), I'm just going to point out a couple of things that seemed a little......disappointing? I'm not even sure if that's the right word, but I'll go with it for now.

    I wish we could have spent more time in Ender's head. There were a few moments, especially at the beginning as he's establishing his obsession with the destroyed formics. But so much of the rest of the story was told from other perspectives that a lot of times I felt like an outsider -- wanting to be close to Ender but always being kept at a distance. I didn't feel that barrier with Ender's Game, and that was one of the things that made me love him.

    I really don't know what to think about the ending. To throw in that final conflict in the last thirty pages or so when it really didn't have much to do with the rest of the book.....that was strange to me. That plot twist easily could have comprised the meat of the novel (or constituted a separate one entirely), but instead it was just a random departure that was resolved before I even had a chance to get too worked up about it. I'm not sorry he included it, I just question why it was done so half-heartedly. I realize that it serves as sort of a resolution for the Stilson and Bonzo deaths, but I just felt like it didn't get the development that it really deserved.

    Other than that, though, I really enjoyed it. I have enjoyed the Shadow books more than the original Speaker, et al sequels. And Ender in Exile seems to fit more with these later Shadow books. Less about sci-fi mysteries and more about the development of complex characters. I liked the portrayal of Colonel Graff in this last one. And I liked Graff's advice to Ender about marrying, having children, and living his life with meaning. That's another thing that has always bothered me about the original sequels. I felt like Ender really got the short end of the stick when it came to marriage and family. He deserved way better, I think!

    Anyway, that's more than my two cents worth on that. Definitely worth reading if you love Ender's Game, and especially if you enjoy the Shadow books since it has some important ties to those stories.

  5. I am so glad you read this! I knew you would have awesome insights.

    Okay, this is what I thought about the conflict at the end. You saw how Ender was living with what he had done to the Buggers, Stilson, Bonzo, all the enemies who have crossed his path. I agree, I would have loved to see into his head more, hear his thoughts, but he was holding himself apart from everyone else, why not the reader? The conflict felt like it was Ender finally seeking redemption for what he had done. That was the step he needed to take in order to forgive himself. Maybe Card could have fleshed that out more, but to me, it was the end of his journey before he could become The Speaker. The pinnacle of his former life before he created a new one.

    It's been a while since I read it, so I hope I'm remembering my feelings about the book correctly. If not, it's still worth reading if you're an Ender fan or new to the series.