Once upon a time, when you finished Ender’s Game, the question “what next” had a simple answer. Since that time, Orson Scott Card has begun filling more of the universe he created with many new books. While there’s certainly something to be said for reading all of them eventually, I tend to be old school and recommend that you stick to the core series that revolves around Ender Wiggin. This is without question the most profound character arc in all the books, and the one that sticks closest to the uncomfortable philosophical quandaries of the first. If you only read Ender’s Game as an action packed space adventure, you might want to check in later next week when we talk about some of the other books in the Ender universe. But if you liked the searching, questioning tone – with accompanying sci fi action of course – I suggest you move straight on to the Ender book.
Yet even there, the reading order isn’t as straight forward as it once was. Originally, Card picked up Ender’s story many, many years later in Speaker for the Dead. Ender’s been wandering the stars via these books version of lightspeed which has granted him the ability to outlive his contemporaries on Earth by thousands of years, but not actual immortality. This is a grown up Ender who has spent his entire life both coming to terms with his actions from the first book, and looking for a chance to undoing. Personally, I liked the jump in time and thought Card did an excellent job believably introducing an older version of his beloved character.
However, recently Card wrote a new Ender book that actually falls between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead. This picks up shortly after the events of the first book while the government tries to figure out what to do with their exiled hero. It is a fascinating book in its own right as we see Ender shifting from military mastermind to political genius. Yet, I felt it lack the richness and strength of the other books in the core set. Rather than a deep thought provoking exploration to what constitutes personhood, it’s more of a history book, a record of the these years in Ender’s life. I also think that Ender in Exile ties more firmly into the Shadow saga it is also part of than the Ender books. If you’re planning on reading all the current books in the Ender universe, it probably doesn’t hurt to go ahead and read Ender in Exile after Ender’s Game. But if you’re looking for another Ender’s Game, I think you’ll be disappointed with it and strongly advise you skip over it in favor of the next two books.
But what can really top a young boy playing war games? Most of the action of Speaker for the Dead, and it’s following two books takes place far from Earth. A new planet, with a new race of aliens has been inhabited by humans. Now people have to learn the very subtle distinctions between what is alien, what is foreign, and what is actually dangerous. Ender arrives prepared both to help prevent a second xenocide and perhaps to undo the damage of the first. But mostly he arrives to help a single family learn where they really stand in the world. With the help of a sentient AI living in a computer in his head, and some assistance from his sister Valentine, Ender must help the settlers learn the difference between being human and being a person.
Interested yet? To be honest, I mostly see the Ender’s Game movie as a stepping stone to getting a Speaker for the Dead movie. As much as I loved the first book, Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide far outstripped the promise of the first. But if you’d rather keep the philosophy out of your sci fi, check back in tomorrow as we start to explore the other variants of the Ender universe. And for more information, here’s the synopsis for each of the books from Amazon as well as a link to the product page:
Now, long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.
On Lusitania, Ender found a world where humans and pequininos and the Hive Queen could all live together; where three very different intelligent species could find common ground at last. Or so he thought.
Lusitania also harbors the descolada, a virus that kills all humans it infects, but which the pequininos require in order to become adults. The Startways Congress so fears the effects of the descolada, should it escape from Lusitania, that they have ordered eh destruction of the entire planet, and all who live there. The Fleet is on its way, a second xenocide seems inevitable.
The planet Lusitania is home to three sentient species: the Pequeninos; a large colony of humans; and the Hive Queen, brought there by Ender. But once against the human race has grown fearful; the Starways Congress has gathered a fleet to destroy Lusitania.
Jane, the evolved computer intelligence, can save the three sentient races of Lusitania. She has learned how to move ships outside the universe, and then instantly back to a different world, abolishing the light-speed limit. But it takes all the processing power available to her, and the Starways Congress is shutting down the Net, world by world.
Soon Jane will not be able to move the ships. Ender’s children must save her if they are to save themselves.
In Ender’s Game, the world’s most gifted children were taken from their families and sent to an elite training school. At Battle School, they learned combat, strategy, and secret intelligence to fight a dangerous war on behalf of those left on Earth. But they also learned some important and less definable lessons about life.
After the life-changing events of those years, these children—now teenagers—must leave the school and readapt to life in the outside world.
Having not seen their families or interacted with other people for years—where do they go now? What can they do?
Ender fought for humanity, but he is now reviled as a ruthless assassin. No longer allowed to live on Earth, he enters into exile. With his sister Valentine, he chooses to leave the only home he’s ever known to begin a relativistic—and revelatory—journey beyond the stars.