rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ender in Exile is a “midquel”--the book sandwiched between Orson Scott Card’s Ender and the later Bean Quartet. In the Afterword, Card acknowledges and explains the contradictions between the last chapter of Ender’s Game and subsequent books, especially this one, regarding the timeline as almost everything written after was fleshed out without previous forethought or insight. I didn’t notice. Frankly, it’s been about 10 years since I first read Ender’s Game and tiny details like those he mentions (timeline, shmimeline) don’t stick out as much, if at all, compared to the basics of the plot.
I loved Ender’s Game, I loved the sequels, and I loved the Bean Quartet. Most of all, I love the universe and Card’s writing in that universe. Card has other books and other worlds; none compare in my mind to Ender’s universe. I thought The Homecoming and Alvin (Seventh Son, whatever) series were boring and preachy. Ender’s universe is preachy, too, but preachy in a way that pertains to the framework of dialogue that sustains the novels. I don’t mind that as much.
Anyway. Ender in Exile picks up after the end of Ender’s Game. The Third Formic War is over and the children from Battle School are slated to go home, all except Ender. He left home at six years old and at thirteen, is stranger to both his family and the world he unknowingly saved--a world whose population venerates him as both hero and monster. Not willing to let Ender’s fate fall to the hands of politicking, Hyrum Graff, with the efforts of Demosthenes and Locke, guarantee Ender’s exile from his home planet and pack him off on the first colony ship to depart for Colony 1.
Most of the book revolves around the social maneuvering, preemptive psychological preparations, and the politics surrounding Ender “the Xenocide”. If you don’t like talking or epistolary narratives (do e-mails still count as epistolary?), you probably won’t like this book. Card has a gift for witty, sharp dialogue and, having created a cast of characters of well above average intelligence, has his hands full outwitting himself with Valentine’s sarcasm and Ender’s passive manipulation. It was entertaining--more entertaining than I remember the other books (all 8) being, but mostly, I think that’s because it’s been way too long since I read them all.
There’s a lot that doesn’t happen--or is avoided and the preparation for the avoidance takes many pages of intellectual one-upmanship--in Ender in Exile, but there’s a lot that does get accomplished: loose ends between the Quartets are tied up rather nicely and events are fleshed out to give a fuller understanding of Ender and Valentine’s journey from Eros and Earth, respectively. The plot felt a little rushed at the end when the colony ship arrives at Ganges Colony, but even though the heavy, quick dialogue constricted the rest of the narrative and winded up reading much faster than I thought it would, I still liked it. I’ll mention the Afterword again because Card notes he didn’t intend for the journey to Shakespeare to take so long--the bulk of the narrative was supposed to center on Ganges, but the events leading up to the confrontation between Ender and Randall went the long way around. I really didn’t mind. Card’s narrative is fluid and progresses with a timed ease I fell into automatically.
Even though I haven’t read so much dialogue in a book in awhile, it wasn’t too bad although was overshadowed by the Shakespeare references which, to his credit, add to the humor and at times, drama, of Card’s story. One of the more interesting dynamics of the book was that between Dorabella Toscano and her daughter, Alessandra. I could really visualize their strong, visceral relationship. Ender’s name may be on the cover, but the book, I felt, a lot of times, belonged as much to them as to him. As much as Dorabella stole the show, she also successfully stole my attention and I found myself excited every time I turned a page onto one of her scenes. Her fairy-like disposition juxtaposed against her daughter’s cynical one made for a funny pairing filled with tension and emotion.
Unfortunately, there are no more Ender or Bean novels, but with so many direct references, Card has me wanting to reread Shakespeare’s plays. In some ways, Ender in Exile read like filler, not an integral part of the overall series, but a “by the way” inserted between the books for readers curious to know more. But I liked it, even if it was filler. I totally recommend to fans of the series, just don’t expect anything eye-opening or super dramatic to happen. Everything of consequence that could have happened already happened. This is just a book to tie everything else together.
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