Sunday, January 01, 2012

The Nine Lives of Ender Wiggins: Card's Franchise Expands

Card, Orson Scott. Ender in Exile. London: Orbit, 2009.

As if his two quartets were not enough (or perhaps he is trying to transform his saga into the Eliot-esque four quartets), Orson Scott Card has written a ninth story, this one a prequel to Xenophobia that depicts Andrew ("Ender") Wiggins' life immediately after the end of the war portrayed in Ender's Game. It's been several years since I read the Ender quartet (and then the Bean quartet), but this novel fleshes out the story excellently, offering a glimpse into Ender's post-war loneliness and his early adventures in space travel.

As plots go, Ender in Exile is a little slower than Ender's Game, and perhaps rightly so, for what sequel could really live up to the novelty and excitement of Card's seminal work? The characters, too, are a bit less compelling in Exile, but many of the new characters are caricatures of manipulation and greed, and the characters from the rest of the canon lack a certain mystery: the already knows where Ender will find himself at the end of his travels and what will become of Peter (and also what Peter will become). Card himself notes that there are some inconsistencies between Exile and other books in his canon, but these bothered me very little. On the other hand, Ender in Exile manages to tie up some of the loose plot elements from its prequels, particularly those in the Bean series. As a volume that fleshes out the details and answers some of the questions left at the end of Shadow of the Giant, this volume is excellent, and watching it develop was a little like catching up with old friends. However, as a standalone book, Ender in Exile is weaker than many of Card's other volumes: it does, in a way, seem to rest on Card's laurels and on those comfortable associations its readers might have with beloved characters from the early volumes. Still, there is much to like about the Card's newest installment of several years in the life of Ender Wiggins, and if it is not the most compelling volume of the sequence, it is simply written and a provides a pleasant return to Card's imaginative future.

No comments: