(Jump down to read a review of Speaker for the Dead)
(reviewed by Judi Clark SEP 06, 1999)
"I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one."
One hundred years earlier the Bugger's, a formidable alien race, attacked Earth. Although Mazer Rackham and the International Force were able to defeat the Buggers during a second attack, it's been several generations and it is assumed that word will have gotten back to the Bugger's that they lost. The I.F. expects a counterattack in the upcoming years. Thus they have been seeking out the one child that will have the right qualities (intelligence and empathy) and whom they can train to beat the buggers and end this confrontation for all times.
Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is believed to be the boy. His brother and sister tested close to the right mix of brains and personality but were each nixed for different reasons. Close enough however, that in a time of total population control, the Wiggins are allowed to breed a third child. After three years of monitoring, and at the age of six, Ender is removed from his family to undergo training at the special off world Battle School which teaches offensive strategy to children. These are not ordinary children though, they are all the best and the brightest, selectively chosen as the last hope to save humankind and earth. While the kids are schooled in advanced history, math and physics, the main training is through team warfare games. The battles are staged weekly in zero-gravity rooms in which the kids wear flash uniforms that go stiff when they are hit.
The fun of Ender's Game is Card's ability to have us see these zero gravity battles and the creative strategy used to the win the wars. Card makes military theory accessible to those who never cared to read about it. The other thing that really works is Card's awareness of kids and what they really are capable of doing. I can not read this book and not relate it to my nephew Adam who even before he could read was a whiz on the computer and even now beats his older brother's friends at every game. And he's a very ordinary kid.
I am writing these comments after having read this book for a second time. The first read, I was very caught up in the zero gravity battle scenes and the computer game and the what's going to happen next. The second read, I was able to appreciate the greater context of the book in terms of military strategy and world political behavior. There is the hypothesis that if there is an alien enemy, all people on earth will pull together as one and fight the common enemy. Part of Ender's Game and highlighted by Ender's Shadow, deals with what happens right after you lose your common enemy.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 5,901 reviews
Speaker for the Dead
(reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 21, 1998)
Speaker for the Dead takes place years later after a second alien race has been discovered. The Speaker for the Dead (secret identity of Ender Wiggin, the Xenocide) speaks the truth on behalf of the victims of the first war, the Buggers, in which their whole race is destroyed. After he writes his two books, the The Hive Queen and The Hegemon, he is sought after to speak in behalf of Pipo on the planet of Lusitania, a Catholic based Portuguese planet with the only other known non-human life form - the Piggies.
I am having a hard time writing about this book and the remainder in the series because I don't believe that I can do justice to these books. Card invents entire races and universes and the rules by which they are governed. Between the science and the imagination, these books are terrific. Xenocide and Children of the Mind continue the story building and surprising us. Even the names of the books which seem so obvious, turn out to mean much more than I could have ever have guessed.
I started my Dad on this series when he went into surgery. He said he didn't know whether he should thank me or curse me since he didn't want to do anything else but read. At least it kept his mind off his condition and kept him in bed! But, I know what he meant. I read one after the other and was very sad to finish the last book. I was so sucked into the characters, the plot, the future. Card once again proves that science fiction is a great vehicle for writing about humanity.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 914 reviews
(reviewed by Judi Clark JAN 13, 2000)
I can't review this book on it's own without putting it in context to Ender's Game even though in the foreword, Card says this new book should be able to be read on its own or even before Ender's Game. It probably can. But for me, I found that I was reading the book as if it were a shadow of the original. I actually ended up re-reading Ender's Game from start to finish, while reading this new book. For example, I read Ender's Shadow up until Bean's first encounter with Ender. Then I re-read Ender's Game until I reached the parallel point. Then I went back to Ender's Shadow and continued to read. I went back and forth between the two books maintaining common points as reference, and finishing Ender's Game first. Having done this, I believe I enjoyed the ending of Ender's Shadow all the more. (It made my eyes tear up and that hardly ever happens.) And from this unique experience, I can say that there are absolutely no contradictions between the books, only difference in perspective. And certainly a lot of information that I didn't realize I missed was filled in.
Ender's Shadow is Bean's story. And Bean's story is about the smartest and littlest kid ever to attend the off-world Battle School. He can piece together bits of information and see the bigger picture faster than anyone else. He also won't play the computer game which is the Battle School's main personality test. (I can't blame Card on this one, after Ender's experience with the computer game, what else could Card add to the experience. Card does say in the foreword that despite writing about a different character, he's still the same writer.) For those who read Ender's Game awhile ago and are trying to place Bean, he's the one that Ender unreasonably picks on during his first practice session as Commander of Dragon Army and later makes him a special forces leader to develop "stupid" tactics.
Between being the smartest kid and his origins as a street urchin, Bean's Battle School experience is far different than that of Ender and the other kids. He was found on the streets of Rotterdam by Sister Carlotta who works for the I.F. and had spent years testing kids until she finally hits pay dirt (twice in fact but that's for you to read about). Bean tests beyond all expectations. The I.F. have Ender Wiggin and believe he really is the one kid that's going to pull them through. But they also come to understand that Bean is worth a look, just in case. Although Sister Carlotta, fully supports Bean, she also has a nagging feeling about his origins and even though her work is done, she decides it would be negligent not to know more about this unusual orphan. Without giving anything away, what she finds out is on par with the best of Card's imagination. Moreover, I found myself getting as attached to Bean and his amazing story as much as Sister Carlotta does.
After reading Ender's Shadow, I realized just how much Ender's Game is really told from the perspective of the Wiggin kids. What Card does with this book is show us what Ender never really could know; the I.F. had a backup. If you're a fan, this is a must read.
Carl recently finished Ender's Shadow, after re-reading Ender's Game first. He was very impressed with this rarely tried approach to writing a sequel. He thought Card did an excellent job bringing the same story to life from another character's perspective.
- Amazon.com reader rating: from 915 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
The Ender Wiggin Series
- Ender's Game (1985) /
- Speaker for the Dead (1986) /
- Xenocide (1991)
- Children of the Mind (1996)
- First Meetings: Four Stories from the Enderverse (2003)
- A War of Gifts (2007)
- Ender in Exile (2008)
- Ender's Shadow (1999)
- Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
- Shadow Puppets (2002)
- Shadow of the Giant (2005)
- Shadow in Flight (January 2013)
The First Formic War
The Homecoming Saga Series
- The Memory of Earth (1992)
- The Call of Earth (1993)
- The Ships of Earth (1994)
- Earthfall (1995)
- Earthborn (1995)
The Alvin Maker Series
- Seventh Son (1987)
- Red Prophet (1988)
- Prentice Alvin (1989)
- Alvin Journeyman (1995)
- Heartfire (1998)
- The Crystal City (2003)
The Mayflower Trilogy (with Katheryn Kidd)
- Lovelock (1994)
Women of Genesis Series
- Songmaster (1980)
- Ainge (1982)
- Hart's Hope (1983)
- Saints (1984)
- Wyrms (1987)
- Treason (1988)
- The Folk of the Fringe (1989)
- The Worthing Saga (1990)
- Maps in a Mirror: Short Fiction (1990)
- Lost Boys (1992)
- The Changed Man (1992)
- A Storyteller in Zion (1993) (essays)
- Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1995)
- Treasure Box (1996)
- Stone Table (1997)
- Homebody (1998)
- Future on Ice (1998)
- Enchantment (1999)
- Magic Street (2005)
- Empire (2006)
- Invasive Procedure (2007) (written with Aaron Johnston)
- Keeper of Dreams: Stories (2008)
- Hidden Empire (2009)
- Visitors (September 2014)
- Robota (2003) illustrated by Doug Chiang
E-Book Study Guide:
- Study Guide for ENDER'S GAME (2002)
- Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) (1988)
- How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (2001)
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- OFFICIAL Orson Scott Card Web site
- The Philotic Web
- Mostlyfiction.com review of Ender in Exile
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About the Author:
Orson Scott Card was born in Richland, Washington in 1951, and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He lived in Brazil for two years as an unpaid missionary for the Mormon Church and received degrees from Brigham Young University (1975) and the University of Utah (1981). Card was the first writer to receive both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novel two years in a row, first for Ender's Game and then for the sequel Speaker for the Dead. He and his wife, Kristine, are the parents of five children: Geoffrey, Emily, Charles, Zina Margaret, and Erin Louisa (named for Chaucer, Bronte and Dickinson, Dickens, Mitchell, and Alcott, respectively). They currently live in Greensboro, North Carolina.