Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender in Exile’ – book review

Mike GristBook / Movie Reviews 4 Comments

Orson Scott Card is one of the most hit-or-miss authors I know of. When he`s good, in books like Ender`s Game, Ender`s Shadow, the early Alvin Maker books, he`s truly awesome, a storyteller to be reckoned with who has great insight into what makes people tick. When he`s bad, he`s awful, with pages of banter and pages of introspection populated with passive aggressive characters who are manipulating each other to the nth degree.


So it was with great trepidation that I picked up his latest Ender book, Ender in Exile, supposed to be filling in the time right after Battle School and before Speaker of the Dead.

I stood in the book shop with it in my hand for a good while. Do I really want to take the risk? Do I want to be disappointed again? The back blurb caught my attention though, in which conflict is set up between Ender and the Captain of the ship he`s riding on. Ender is due to be the governor of the colony when they arrive, but the captain is a power-grabber and unlikely to let it happen.

That`s simple, but promising. After the complexity of Ender on the whole, simple is needed. Perhaps this is do-able, I thought. Ender`s series didn`t start going off  the rails `til Xenocide, and not truly off `til Children of the Mind (which was awful).

Well, of course I was disappointed. The book is more a bunch of bits than any kind of single narrative. The bits leading up to conflict with the ship`s captain are all actually quite good. But that storyline finishes about a third into the book proper, with ender laying the smack down very easily. After that we are left with loose ends from other books to be tied up. Some evil version of Bean, some bits of stuff on one of the colony planets. Basically a lot of filler, things that we could assume from the other books, that were glossed over in summaries because they weren`t worthy of book status.

Well, here Card slams them all together and calls them a book.

Some of the banter scenes are just atrocious. At one point a mother and daughter are introduced, god knows why since they play no role in Ender`s life, but we are forced to read page after page of them banter/manipulating each other. The mother is ridiculously frenetic, calling everything a fairy and constantly prancing around. I skipped this. We`re also subjected to page after page of emails between Valentine, Peter, Ender`s parents, Graf, and others, all discussing how best they should be manipulating Ender, or trying to manipulate him, or whose responsibility it is to manipulate him. Some sense of suspense is built up over Ender will ever enter into normal relations with his parents, but never paid off.

Sigh. The book climaxes with the evil Bean character getting quite easily smacked down by Ender.

Don`t read this book, I guess. I`m still amazed that Card managed to produce such a good book in Ender`s Shadow, after going into such tripe on the Ender side of things. Everything else is garbage.

However, if you feel you must buy it, why not buy through the image link above? I`ll get a miniscule fraction of the book`s cost, at no extra expense to you. Cheers!

Comments 4

  1. I feel your pain. I loved Ender’s Game and Speaker For The Dead, was kind of “meh” about Xenocide and the last one. I decided to give Enchantment a shot, hoping for a nice story well-told, and boy was I ever disappointed. It was so contrived and poorly written, I could never properly escape into the story. Now I’m only willing to try books of his that have been declared excellent by consensus.

  2. A science fiction critic. It’s good to see a new side of you, Mike. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this kind of commentary on your site.

    I also welcome the return of the more “ruinsy” masthead and the darker color scheme.

  3. Post

    Tara- Right, Xenocide. I think Card even said (in the liner notes? I forget where I read it) that he had the idea for the book, but no main character, so he just tossed Ender in there. Shameful behaviour.

    I wish I could follow the same guidelines you`ve set re: Card, but I`m always so hopeful. Ender is amazing, and Ender`s Shadow was amazing too. To prove how much of a sucker I am I also read `Hidden Empire` (his stab at a mainstream 24-style terrorist story) and `Lost Boys` recently. Lost Boys was good though most of the plot seemed to be happening behind the scenes. Hidden Empire was unimpressive.

    David- I`m actually teeing myself up for a bigger science-fiction review thing, details to come as soon as Amazon sends me what I need. And the ruins masthead- I`m glad it`s back too. More fitting, of course. And now with rollovers! The other one was mostly a placeholder.

  4. I am a big fan of the ender’s game series in general, and while there are parts of some of the books I can’t stand (read most of xenocide and children of the mind here) this book was a failure of epic proportions. I have tried like three times to read Ender in Exile but I actually can’t. It’s just plain awful. It’s like he forgets the motivation the characters had for events and how they drove the plot, or just changes them. I honestly wondered if it was even his writing.

    Good review though friend, it’s nice to see that I’m not the only one who feels this was about this book

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