My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have to start out by saying, that this is not a stand alone novel. If you have never read any of the books about Ender Wiggin or Bean… uh… you really should go read Enders’s Game and Ender’s Shadow and all the other Shadow books. Even though there are sufficient info dumps incase you haven’t read any other of the Ender or Shadow books, I still think you’d be better off reading those first. The full impact of these novels would be lost without the background knowledge.
I have to admit that I’ve read Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow once in my life, but that I have listened to Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow so many times I’ve lost count. (I assure you, it’s been more than 10x each.) I’ve listened to all the books published until Shadow of a Giant, except Children of the Mind – I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten around to listening to that one yet, but what can I say.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited the extended Ender Universe and listening to this book was certainly a treat. Listening to Ender in Exile was like talking to an old friend I haven’t seen in years and I got to meet some new friends along the way.
Though I noted the inconsistencies in the telling of Ender’s story between the end of the war and leaving to govern the first human space colony, I was unfazed by it. It was funny to me that Card decided to put an explanation at the end to justify the inconsistencies. Being a writer myself, though currently unpublished, I understand the idea of putting ideas together at one time and then filling them in more vividly later. I mean come on Ender’s Game was written over twenty-five years ago and I’m sure that the decisions a writer makes don’t always span that far in advance, stories evolve and sometimes certain ideas are simply better than others. For example, I think this is the first story where going into “stasis” is brought up as an option during space travel. I could be wrong, it’s been an incredibly LONG time since I’ve read/listened to Speaker for the Dead and I know it wasn’t mentioned in any of the few short stories I’ve read. Anyway, that turned out to be a very nice story tool in this novel, not only for space travel, but for Graff’s part of the story.
In a way, reading Ender in Exile was like reading a series of 4 short stories that coalesced into a continuous long story. 1) Ender’s story after the war, before boarding the starship to a new planet was one story, which had it’s own emotional ebbs and flows. 2) The Alessandra and Dorabella story, which pretty much happened just before departure, and on board the starship as they few to their new colony on Shakespeare (talk about a fun name for a planet). Though there is intrigue between Ender and Admiral Morgan during this time and, for me, really interesting information about Shakespeare and its new inhabitants, the main conflict given most time revolves around the two woman. 3) The important story of Ender finding the egg of the new hive queen and finding a new meaning for his life is a nice expansion of what we already learned at the end of Ender’s Game. 4) All the other stories bring Ender to a culminating story where he faces one of his demons. The demon that constantly plagues him is his burden of killing two children and the entire race of buggers. His challenging demon appears to him in the form of a young man who has been trained to believe he is someone else’s child. Ender is confronted about his crimes and is challenged to reveal himself as a monster. Ender shows his audience that he has a choice to be a monster or be his true self. So as to not be a spoiler, that’s all I’ll say. I just found the ending to be quite powerful and only wish that I could be as smart, far sighted, and true to myself as the characters in these stories.
I love the human aspect of the Ender stories, there’s a part of me that always feels like Card is giving the reader some of his insights on life as I read through these books and I think it’s kind of fun. They are food for thought and it’s fun to think about. I believe that many of his observations about human nature are true in a healthy society. We’ll always have our crazies but in general we all want pretty simple things.