I have been reading the Ender and Bean series because I started them long ago and I am a completeist. I finished the Bean series and then I read Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide, so I’d be reading in terms of internal chronology. The Bean series I liked just fine as what they are–action sci-fi. The Ender series are something else entirely.
I love Ender’s Game. I’ve read it several times and each time I have the same emotional response to it. It’s a book I’m happy to say is a favorite. But the sad truth is, the series as a whole suffers from what I have dubbed “Amber Spyglass syndrome”. You know, the first book is amazing, and you can’t wait to read the rest of the series. And then the second book isn’t exactly what you expected, and you’re not sure you entirely trust where the author is going, but surely the third book will be great. And then you read the third book and you are totally disappointed and a little bit stabby because good GRIEF, it’s nothing but opinions and philosophy with a very thin veneer of story over it and moreover, the characters you’ve grown to love are just gone.
*takes a deep breath*
So that’s what I see going on with Xenocide. Card has substituted philosophy for story and the result is an odd and unsatisfying book. I appreciate the difficulties Card is facing in terms of trying to write science fiction as a person of faith. But as someone who is also religious, I also really dislike what he does here, just as much as I dislike what Pullman does in Amber Spyglass. It’s not even good science fiction–the solution to the problem is some alchemical combination of magic and religion and philosophy. It’s a solution to f-t-l travel, and so it takes on a classic sci-fi problem, but in a way that I–not at all a scientist–found both aggravating and suspect.
Moreover, I felt distanced from Ender, which I never have before. I never necessarily liked or agreed with all his actions and stances, but I always cared for him. Xenocide‘s Ender is not the Ender I cared about. The characters even refer to him mostly as Andrew, which doesn’t help.
So it’s frustrating and I now have to decide whether to go on, if I should finish the series or give the whole thing up as a bad job. It’s a tough call and I haven’t made it yet. But I know that I’m annoyed with the moralizing and philosophy masquerading as story.
Book source: public library
Book information: 1996, Tor; adult science fiction (YA crossover)