Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Orson Scott Card's Endless Game


"How To Milk A Franchise For Every Redeeming Quality

I hardly know where to begin. After having read all but the last "Shadow Puppet", I feel mentally exhausted. Firstly from 2,708 pages of sheer boredom, and secondly from a feeling of being duped. This book/series came heavily hyped by a friend, and I was fairly certain that it must be good, since I've heard of the name, even if I never read it. And like the fool that I was, I made an impulse Amazon.com purchase to buy the first six books in two boxed sets.

Ender's GameEnder's Game, the first book was a good book. Notice that I didn't say "great". I suppose if this book preceded WarGames, I might have been inclined to say great. But since it hasn't, my mind instantly recognized the similarity, even though the exact situations were reversed*. Neverless, this book was enjoyable, even though OSC likes to paint his characters with Mensa-prequalified, earth-shattering intelligence (and believe me that this meme is severly abused.) And thusly is embued the main character Andrew (Ender) Wiggin, a genius, along with his parents, and two older siblings. Rating: 4 Stars

Ender's ShadowEnder's Shadow is book two of this series, and focuses on one of the characters who was mostly ignored in the first book. His name is simply "Bean" and he is an orphan. However, this time around, OSC has a new trick up his sleeve: Bean is so super-super-super intelligent, he makes Ender look like a drooling neanderthal-era idiot. This book is mostly written from the a revisionist point of view, showing how Bean truly manipulated the scenes in the first book, so that events only turned out the way they did, because of his behind-the-scenes actions. Rating: 3.5 Stars

Shadow of the HegemonSpeaker for the DeadChildren of the MindXenocide

For these last four book, I urge you to avoid them like the clich├ęd plague. I do admit though, that I very much enjoyed the introduction to "Speaker for the Dead" (Amazon's Search Inside this book.) After that you can safely put down the book.

In WarGames, the plot revolves an adolescent who plays a game with a computer, in which it simulates a nuclear war strategy game, only that this computer belongs to the government and controls the real-life nuclear arsenal. In Ender's Game, a 6-year-old boy plays computer games that simulate war, only to find out that he was remotely fighting and directing a real galactic war.


bkmarcus said...

Well, given your title and opening, I assumed I'd be agreeing with you, but I don't.

I first read Ender's Game almost 20 years ago. I liked it a lot, but didn't love it as much as some.

Speaker For The Dead, however, was the single greatest science fiction novel I felt I'd ever read. Another opposite reaction: I had difficulty getting past the first few chapters, but then completely fell into the book and was extremely moved by the end.

Someone told me to give Ender's Game another try, suggesting that I'd appreciate it more on a second read. My reservations were yours: kids who are smarter than everyone else including all the grownups around them ... yawn. But the advice was right, on a second reading, I thought the first book was great.

Xenocide was a schizoid experience, because it intertwines two threads: one that Card clearly loved writing, about a Chinese princess whose obsessive-compulsive disorder is treated as a mystic gift, and then the perfunctory follow-up to the Speaker plot, which felt like Card was writing it in his sleep. It included some extremely cool ideas and potentially cool developments, but I'm guessing those came out of his notes for the previous book.

Don't know why I bothered reading Children of the Mind. It was like the not-so-good half of Xenocide.

It was years later, so I gave Ender's Shadow a try, and liked it plenty. I thought it was a great idea to follow one of the lesser characters as the new protagonist of the old plot.

The second Shadow book felt like Card's usual auto-pilot sequel writing (he does this with other series as well) and I didn't bother with any of the others.

Card is one of my favorite SF writers and also one of the most aggravating, since he has no compulsion against writing boring books. As a fan, the experience is very hit-or-miss.

iceberg said...

Thank you bkmarcus for reminding me about yet another trademark OSC super-genius character, although this time she is also a wood-grain-tracing chinese princess whose prowess at logical deductions are astounding feats of mental erudition.

I know I mentioned them before, but between Valentine, Peter, and the alter ego roles they play of the also so-brilliant tagteam of Demosthenes and Locke, I feel they deserved yet another mention for their skillful rise to power thru the thousands of messages they posted on the electronic bulletin boards. (If only they had blogger accounts, who knows what they would have become!)

Wait, did I forgot anyone? Oh, yes Jane, the omniscient computer personality, described as "a shy, frightened child dwelling in the vast memory of the interstellar computer network" who bonds with Ender Wiggin.

I wasn't really interested in Novinha's family or the Pequenos characters of SFTD. If there is one notable thing I recall about the story, it was the discussion and analysis of the church and its interstellar power struggles of control.

I do agree with you that OSC knows how to be very tedious, and no has no compunction regarding turning up "auto-pilot" sequels.