Tag Archives: Orson Scott Card

Xenocide–Orson Scott Card

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)


Filed under bookish posts, reviews

August book list

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: First Bean book. I love the way Card reweaves the story he told in Ender’s Game, making it both the same and different. And I found it quite emotionally touching as well, particularly the final battle scene and the end.

Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison: I was mildly entertained by this, but more and more I’m searching for books that have emotional depth and resonance and this, well, didn’t. But, it’s a YA mystery, and I want more in that category.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron: I just picked this one up at the library because it’s a Newbery book and I’m trying to expand my reading list. On the first page I stopped and thought to myself, “OH. It’s that book.” If you know what I’m talking about, you too may be a Newbery nerd. ANYWAY. It’s a decent book, though I feel like the basic storyline is one that’s used a lot in contemporary books and tends to get rewarded with praise and honors. I’m not as wild about it, but when done well, it does work.

Relic Master: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher: reviewed {here}.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith: Second in a series. I found parts of it interesting and parts much less so, though I did like it considerably more than the first book.

Conflict of Honors by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: reviewed {here}

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner: Yes, I re-read it. I actually have more thoughts committed to paper which may eventually make it online. But for now they can be summed up as: Gaaah, Megan Whalen Turner!

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey: I’ve been underwhelmed by a lot of so-called historical books lately, but I’ve also found some unexpected gems–The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell and Haunting Violet. I loved this book. Its heroine, Violet, is not a forward-thinking lady escaping the shackles of society. She’s a fake trying to make her way through society without getting caught. I loved her, I loved the romance. In short, YAY!

A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson: A re-read. Eva Ibbotson is becoming one of my comfort authors. A Song for Summer isn’t my absolute favorite of her books, but it’s still lovely.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins: I liked this a lot more than I expected to, though I never totally fell in love with it. Still, I wasn’t bothered by the voice, as I sometimes am, and the writing was seemingly effortless.

The Greyfriar by Clay and Susan Griffiths: I did not like this book. The writing bothered me, the plot was not original, though some of the mythology was. And I was extremely bothered by the equation of religion and magic.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer: A re-read. I really enjoy Arabella, who is a spunky character with a strong philanthropic bent. Except for the times when she’s pretending to be an heiress, of course.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: I had gotten stuck on this one before but wanted to actually read it. So I did. And I cried a lot. Excellent, but can only be described as bleak. I have a few more things to say which are spoilerish, so I may say them on Goodreads.

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip: Most of McKillip’s books improve with re-reading. This is no exception. I still find Luna Pellinore a fascinating and tantalizing character. I want more of her story!

The Counterfeit Madam by Pat McIntosh: The latest Gil Cunningham mystery. I enjoyed it a lot, as usual, and like the way characters from past stories return and change or don’t. There is one ongoing plotline that I would like resolved. Hopefully soon.

Deception by Lee Nichols: Another book I wasn’t sure about but ended up enjoying. Emma’s a fun character and I wasn’t annoyed by her or the writing, which is always nice. (And I mean that with real sincerity: my most common complaint about books I’ve read in the past couple of years is that they are annoying–the writing is either grandiose or clunks horribly.)

Shadow of the Hegemonby Orson Scott Card: reviewed {here}

From the Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury: reviewed {here}

Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs: It was nice to have the rest of Ward’s story, but I think I preferred Dragon Bones. Somehow the stakes for this never quite seemed real to me and so I was never that worried.

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway: reviewed {here}

The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin: An excellent children’s biography of Benedict Arnold! I loved the way Sheinkin allowed people to speak in their own words, using quite a few period quotations, while at the same time explaining things in clear, modern terms. In addition, he was trying to capture one of the more complex figures in Revolutionary history.

Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge: Review coming soon.

My Dear Jenny by Madeleine Robbins: [e-book won through Library Thing] I suspected that this would be a Georgette Heyer knock-off. It wasn’t that exactly–I imagine that it does owe something to her, but it didn’t read like a thinner version of any of her books. On the other hand, the language and writing is nowhere near as strong.

The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman: Review coming soon.

The Broken Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin: Sequel to The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I liked this one better, partly because there was less violence, or at least less violence of a sort that bothers me. Also, I really liked Oree and her voice.

Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis: I wanted to read the whole Oxford series close together, to see how they hung together. To me, they’re actually quite disparate. Or at least, they strike very different notes, although they’re tied together by more than just an overlap of characters. Everyday heroism (MIKE) and courage in the face of disaster and defeat, for instance. I do find the optimism of Blackout and All Clear hard to reconcile with the non-optimism of Doomsday Book. Still, I love all three/four.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones: I thinking I’m heading for a crazy Tam Lin retelling read-through. Fire and Hemlock is one of my favorites (how can I choose, though?). Polly is a lovely character, as is Granny. And I caught a bit more about names this time through–read Laurel’s full list of names carefully. It’s quite enlightening. Is the end confusing? You bet! But it rewards careful reading and re-reading and is, I think, quite in keeping with the rest of the book.

Night Fall by Joan Aiken: Picked this up at a library booksale, as an Aiken I hadn’t read. (I find it hard to resist the siren song of $1 hardbacks.) It’s a mystery that’s both odd and enchanting and, in a deeply weird way, it bears a strong resemblance to Fire and Hemlock.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede: I really wanted to like this book, and I did enjoy the different systems of magic and so on. But I felt like everything it was trying to do was done better by The Lost Conspiracy–the conflict between groups and especially Eff’s journey. To me, the real solution of the problem was so blindingly obvious that I spent most of the time wanting to say, “Come ON, Eff! Can’t you see?” Still, I think that would be less of a problem for a different reader and a different age range.

The Lost Heiress by Catherine Fisher: Book 2 of the Relic Master series. I was expecting one solution to the titular problem and found quite a different one. I love the little bits of description that Fisher weaves in–never over the top, but always setting the ground so perfectly. These are very fast reads and lots of fun.

Shadow of the Giant by Orson Scott Card: So, as I started reading this, I thought, Huh. It seems like something’s happened between the end of the last book and now. Then I kept reading and wasn’t bothered by it any more. Just looked at my TBR list and…there’s a book that comes in between! That aside, I did enjoy this more than Shadow of the Hegemon.


Filed under bookish posts, monthly book list, reviews