If you read Ender’s Game, this is the book that you desperately wanted to read immediately afterward but couldn’t because it wasn’t written until twenty three years after Ender’s Game was published. Purposeful on the part of Orson Scott Card? No, so he claims. Annoying? Yes. Worth the wait? Though I didn’t read Ender’s Game when it was first published on account of not yet being born, I’m going to give that one an unquestionable yes as well.
The Booklist review of this book states:
“Threads from all the other books in the series flow through this narrative, which fills gaps, fleshes out familiar characterizations…”
which is all true. The moment I came upon the dialogue between Ender’s parents, Teresa and John Paul, I thought I’d struck gold. Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin talk? They’re intelligent? They know everything about everything? Who would have thought? They were one dimensional characters whom we never really got to know in Ender’s Game, so this was a real treat. They do not appear in the subsequent books in this series and until this point I had thought that Ender’s Game was their first and final curtain call.
At the beginning of Ender in Exile, before Ender was able to leave for the new colony that he’d been declared the governor of, there was some hoopla on Earth regarding his court martial. Yes, he saved the entire human race by winning the war against the formics, but he’s also a child-killer and therefore has a questionable reputation on Earth. Good ‘ol Mazer Rackam and Colonel Hyrum Graff behaved questionably what with training child soldiers and whatnot so they have been roped into the court martial as well. As enthralling as that sounds, unfortunately this entire section of the beginning of the book was unnecessary and blah. It consisted of lots of details about Ender’s past and his reputation on Earth, all of which we already know.
The colony exists on one of the home planets of the formics, the bugger species which Ender destroyed entirely (or did he?!). Ender was previously obsessed with learning about the formics before he wiped out their species. Once he learned he would be helping to colonize one of their former home planets, his preoccupation only increased, much to his sister Valentine’s concern. In between analyzing photos of bugger carcasses, his boy-governor duties included meeting as many of the volunteer colonists as possible before the journey began. While the majority were going into stasis, quite a few were not and he had planned to develop as many strong relationships with them as possible over the course of the two year (forty for those back on Earth) voyage to the new colony. As a soon-to-be fifteen year-old governor, he knew he would need as much support as possible if he were to effectively hold a position of power.
Cue the commercials. I refer to sections such as chapters five and eleven as commercials because I don’t see how they relate to the overall story, they break up the good stuff and not in a good way, and hence, they are like the commercials that come at the least opportune times during your favorite TV show. Two examples of commercials in Ender in Exile:
Chapter 5: a mother and daughter who are preparing to join the colonists hope that the daughter, Alessandra, will be able to marry Ender at some point after they reach the new colony. They opt out of completing the journey in stasis so as not to lose those two precious years in which Alessandra can be cozying up to Ender. Mating will be of the utmost importance on the new colony in order to expand the human gene pool. This mother/daughter have a complicated relationship and family history, so of course we needed a twenty-some page chapter on them. Alessandra and her mother Dorabella play a moderately significant role in the book overall, I will admit. But do we really need them? That is the question.
Chapter 11: Virolmi appeared mid-chapter and took us down another tangent that we didn’t ask for. Here’s the thing about new characters: I can understand why so much time was spent with Teresa and John Paul at the beginning of this book because they were characters that Card introduced in Ender’s Game, but only just; now in Ender in Exile they’re still new-ish but because of their direct relation to Ender, and the overall story of course I would welcome new information on them. But Alessandra? Virolmi? These are tangents which truly make no sense. Unlike the planned tangents that your social psychology professor uses in class to make it seem like he’s connecting the students by telling personal stories when really he’s going to ask a question about that personal story on the exam because it relates to the topic and it turns out it was a lesson in disguise after all. However, knowing about Alessandra and Virolmi will get you nowhere.
Have you seen Pretty Little Liars? That show has gone down more tangents than I can even remember, and spent more precious scene time than I can even fathom with characters who usually are never even involved in the actual plotline itself. The catch is that it’s an awesome show, with characters whose storylines I actually care to see the end of. And so I still watch it. Even though we know nothing’s going to happen with Sara Harvey or Lesli Stone and yet they’ve stolen the spotlight of the last however many episodes and did we care? Not really, because we knew they weren’t A. Because we aren’t stupid.
So here’s the skinny: Ender in Exile is worth the read if you fell in love with the entire concept and characters after reading Ender’s Game. But there are a lot of commercials. But if you’re like me, you’re going to keep reading it regardless. Maybe you won’t read all of the books in each spinoff that Card has cranked out (a book for Bean? Really??) but if you read Ender’s Game, and want to finish what was started, it’s worth the read.