Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Ender Series

We've been discussing Orson Scott Card this month so much that I thought I would just do a full review on the truly amazing Ender Series. You've all had great things to say about the first one, "Ender's Game". It's an excellent intro. to this genre because it is such an easy read - likeable and interesting characters, fast-paced, unique plot and just enough "real life" mixed in with the sci-fi to keep everyone feeling grounded. I'm so glad so many have given it a go and enjoyed it.

The next book in the series is called "Speaker For the Dead", named such because a grown-up Ender has written a book about The Buggers (the alien species he battles in the first book) so that people will understand more about them. This "speaking for the dead" has become his career and he travels to many planets to learn about the lives of famous dead people and speak their history for them. He ends up on a newly colonized planet that is co-habitating with another species called "piggies". The colony is facing some serious challenges and Ender gets wrapped up in it all and ends up staying there.

This is an incredibly deep and fascinating book. What I love about Card is that he uses the genre of sci-fi as a mirror, reflecting the image of humanity in a whole new light. There may be spaceships and aliens in his books, but if you dig a little deeper you find that these are really stories about the many facets of the human soul. This particular novel deals alot with prejudice and how easy it is to hate that which we don't understand. Yet how deeply gratifying it is to find beauty in that which we learn to understand. It's an excellent book with well-rounded characters and a really cool twist at the end.

That being said, it has a very slow start. It's tough to get over the fact that Ender is all grown up and he has a weird relationship with the Hive Queen of the Buggers that takes some getting used to. Of the four in the series, I found this one to be more difficult, but very rewarding.

The next book in the series is "Xenocide". The inhabitants of the planet where Ender now lives have discovered a strange virus that is so contagious and so deadly they have been quarantined to the planet and now face possible destruction by other worlds. Meanwhile, on a planet far, far away (hee hee) a young girl has discovered she is one of the chosen "Godspoken" - near-genius intellect but plagued by voices in her head that torment her into doing strange things as payment for her brilliance. She and Ender (along with characters from book 2 and a reappearance by Valentine (yay!)) will come together to try to stop the eminent xenocide.

This books takes a fascinating look at the different philosophies mankind has for problem solving. It explores the dangers of making assumptions about others, the necessity of openmindedness as we continually struggle for peace (both inner and global), and teaches us to use compassion instead of logic when facing life's most difficult problems.

I loved this book unabashedly. It is so beautifully written and brought together - passionate, hopeful, and tragic all at the same time.

The last book in the series is "Children of the Mind" and kids, this one gets pretty "out there". I ate it up because I totally love "social commentary sci-fi" and the philosophy here is nothing short of brilliant. But it's hard to even give a synopsis of this story because it's so complex and deep. The first time I finished this book I felt completely overwhelmed by the magnamity of what I had just learned and experienced. In short, this book blew me away.

But be warned: the science fiction elements here get brutally hard-core, utilizing issues like Aritificial Intelligence and faster-than-light speed travel to pose mind-bending questions about religion and the purpose of mankind. It's intense.

So there you have it. I hope this sci-fi-challenge has introduced you to some new authors, new concepts and new philosophies. Now that you've gotten your toes in, I suggest you give this Ender series a go and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

1 comment:

Andrea said...

WOW...thanks for the synopsis - I really enjoyed it and I think I will check out a few more OSC books! I love discovering a new author.