It is no secret that I am a big fan of Orson Scott Card. I love many of his books (and hate a few as well.) After listening to the Audioplay version of Ender’s Game and then re-reading Ender’s Game as well, I decided to go back and re-read Xenocide and Children of the Mind.
It has been a couple months but I finally finished Children of the Mind. And I didn’t dislike it nearly as much as I remembered. Part of it is the lowered expectations of previous memory. But I also can catch a glimpse of what Card was trying to do.
Originally Xenocide and Children of the Mind were supposed to be one book. But Card got carried away and had to split it into two books. There are just too many ideas and too much going on in these books.
Children of the Mind cannot be read without Xenocide. And really Xenocide cannot be read without Speaker for the Dead. Ender has spent 3000 years (because of light speed travel) wandering the galaxy with his sister Valentine. She eventually meets a man and married and Ender continues on. On his very next world he meets a woman and her broken family and also marries.
Lusitania is the home of the first aliens found since Ender defeated the Formics. In Xenocide, Ender bridges the gap between the Pequeninos and the humans and brings about peace. But at great cost to his stepson Milo. Because of the uproar on Lusitania, the Congress has sent a fleet with orders to destroy the world, both because of Lusitania’s resistance to the government and what may be an intelligent virus (Descolada) that is molding Lusitania into its own design.
And that is just the set up for Children of the Mind. There is also instantaneous travel, Ender gets split into three bodies, Jane (a computer based intelligent being) is getting shut down, a race against time to save the world, the need to talk to the Descolada home world, the need to understand the philosophical underpinnings of the Congress and get them to change their mind.
It is just a mess. It is not a horrible mess. I read it and was mildly entertained. But this is far from Card’s best work. One of the most important skills of a writer is knowing how to eliminate good ideas to make the overall work something better. And it is clear that Card got caught up in himself and his editors were unable to tell that it needed to be cut (or unable to help him figure out what to cut.)
It is not that I don’t think that this sub-trilogy (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind) is not worth reading. I do think it is worth reading because there are some good ideas there. And I really like philosophical science fiction (especially the type that still has a story). But I want to make sure you have appropriately lowered expectations. This sub-trilogy is not Ender’s Game. It is not a children’s book (as Ender’s Game is) and it is not as masterfully written as Ender’s Game.
This is the conclusion of the Ender saga. Card wrote a fifth book in the series, but it is really placed as 1.5, not 5 (the vast majority of Ender in Exile is additional materials between the last two chapters of Ender’s Game). So my advice is that the reading order should be Ender’s Game, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and then Children of the Mind.
- Xenocide by Orson Scott Card (Ender Quintet #3)
- Ender’s Game AudioPlay
- Ender’s Game (Comparing Versions)
- Ender’s Game (Movie and Book Review)
- Ender in Exile
- Lost in Flight (Shadow Series)
- The Lost Gate
- Lost Boys
- Hidden Empire