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.