Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

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Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Magda Healey
Reviewed by Magda Healey
Summary: A sequel that fits in-between the last two chapters of Ender's Game, this disjointed but still very readable and enjoyable in parts novel is cautiously recommended to fans of the whole series.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 400 Date: November 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841492278

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Ender in Exile is the most recently published in the series set in the universe of Ender's Game, a long standing and one of the best known series of science-fiction by Orson Scott Card. It's been defined as an 'interquel', fitting chronologically between Ender's Game and the Speaker for the Dead, the first two (and probably the best two) novels in the sequence. Technically speaking, Ender in Exile actually fits in-between the last chapters of Ender's Game and describes in more detail events outlined in the resolving sections of Ender's Game. Confusingly for the uninitiated, Ender in Exile is also a sequel to the Shadow of the Giant, a parallel sub-series from the universe of the Ender's Game.

Ender's Game, published in 1985, was something of a revelation: an immensely readable, fast-paced but also rather philosophically and psychologically developed story of a miracle child, a boy bred and trained to defend humanity from destruction in the war with an alien insect-like race known as 'Buggers' or 'Formics'. The central character of the novel (and the whole series) is Andrew Ender Wiggin, the winner of the war with the formics that resulted in the complete destruction of the alien species and in the opening of the Universe to human colonisation.

In Ender in Exile, Ender is a child-soldier and a hero returning from war, as much a master and creator of his own destiny as a puppet in the hands of his minders. Instead of being allowed to come back home, Ender is sent as a governor to a new colony on planet Shakespeare, forty light years away from Earth. He considers his job done and his main preoccupation is now researching the formics - and specifically, trying to understand why the formic Hive Queens allowed him to destroy the entire civilisation. Those who read Ender's Game know the answer, and know the denouement of the first part of Ender in Exile. This first part constitutes in fact about three quarters of the length of Ender in Exile is devoted to the story of Ender's preparation, journey to and stay on Shakespeare, with its attendant political intrigue, human plots and Card's musings on social organisation, human nature, conflict and leadership.

I enjoyed this part of the book, despite its somehow disjointed character (I was not at all surprised to find out that some of the chapters were made up of, or incorporated, previously existing short stories). The grand themes of interstellar colonisation and the small themes of personal relationships as well as details of alien biology that Card uses so well in his other books were well woven into a narrative of Ender's physical, psychological and spiritual journey. It's not exactly a coming of age story, as Ender, as befits a wonder child hero figure, is at the age of thirteen already more mature and developed than many an old man, but we also witness some sort of coming together of Ender, who - to some extent at least - returns to a more normal life after his years at the Battle School.

The last section of Ender in Exile covers Ender's voyage from Shakespeare to Ganges and his time on Ganges. This feels like part of an entirely different novel, and for all purposes it is, namely the previously mentioned sequel to the Shadow of the Giant. This introduces new characters and events and comes as a bit of a shock after the first part, having only a very tenuous narrative connection to it. There is no reason for the Ganges section to be in Ender in Exile at all, unless it's because Card needed to bump up the book to a standard length and didn't want to make it into two separate novels.

I had a great dilemma about the star rating of Ender in Exile. On one hand, it's almost not-a-novel, but it's more than a collection of short stories and structurally it just isn't very good. On the other hand, I simply really enjoyed reading it, especially the middle chapters taking part on Shakespeare and containing a lot of my favourite sci-fi activity, world-building. I loved Ender's Game and I liked Speaker for the Dead very much, and despite having read both novels over ten years ago, I actually remembered them, so the interquel part of Ender in Exile worked well for me. On the other hand, I have not read the Shadow sub-series and thus the sequel part wasn't particularly interesting (although I could work out what's happening with no problems, just didn't have emotional investment in it).

Ender in Exile will be much enjoyed by fans of the whole series, as it has Card's fluent and accessible writing and his trademark moral and emotional dilemmas aplenty. To enjoy it at all, you need to know at least Ender's Game - it doesn't work as a stand-alone - and preferably, more than just that. Ender in Exile is a gap-filler for the Ender-verse and probably only recommended for those who spend large part of their lives there.

The novel is followed by an afterword from Card, part of it probably quite interesting (to the fans), and part of it full of such infuriating American imperialist claptrap that I am tempted to take half a rating star off just for that, but as apparently hardly anybody reads afterwords, I will leave it as it is.

In the final analysis, and assuming that most if not all of the readers of Ender in Exile will be fans of the series, three and half stars (including a solid half for the gold bugs).

Thanks to the publishers for sending this book to the Bookbag.

Ursula Le Guin created one of the best sci-fi universes in her Hain books. Those who read fantasy as well as science fiction and like the Ender series might also enjoy Brent Weeks.

Buy Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card at Amazon.com.

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