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« At Long Last | Main | Speaker for the Dead »

August 10, 2008

Comments

Br. Bob

I loved the Ender series as a kid, and though I haven't read the Ender track since high school, I remember being impressed with how respectfully Card deals with Catholicism. I totally agree with your assessment thus far, and I'm excited to hear more of what you think of these. Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind are very different than Ender's Game, (they are far more adult for one thing), but with a similar emphasis on characters over technobabble. I've only read some of the books in the Bean track and have enjoyed them, but I'm waiting for Card to finish the series before I head along farther.

Tim J.

I'm very glad to see this review of Ender's Game. It is one of the books that my son and I have read and discussed together. He actually recommended it to me, and I enjoyed it immensely.

The book deals with a number of fascinating threads of thought, important philosophical questions, and is also well paced and thoroughly involves the reader in the lives of the characters. I found myself thinking quite a bit about the story between reading sessions, and was always eager to get back to the book.

I got a good start on Speaker For The Dead, but had to give it back to the person who loaned the book. I'm looking forward to finishing it soon, as well.

Nice pick, Jimmy!

RM

I love the Ender series too! I started reading them in High School and took a brief respite in my early college years, but then I picked them up again and I was surprised to find how enjoyable they still are. Granted, I felt that each successive book in Ender's series required a slight increase in suspension of disbelief (I'm specifically thinking of some of the concepts found in the later books, but don't wanna give away any spoilers), but it was never really a huge jump or a problem I couldn't get around. Heck, if I can buy the fact that just about every major problem on the Starship Enterprise could be solved by either emitting a tachyon pulse or ejecting the warp core, then Ender's game is a piece of cake!

As far as Catholicism is concerned, I agree with Br. Bob in remembering that Card handled it well, and I was happy to see the truth of the fact that the Church can still remain evangelical in the presence of Alien life! IIRC, there are some weird parts of the later books that would seem to run counter to solid theology, but the Church as represented in the books never dabbles in or espouses those things, and was honestly and fairly portrayed throughout.

From my perspective, the brilliant thing about the Ender series is how much "the people really act and feel like people". There seems to be something genuine about how Card portrays the various interactions between people, whether it be for better or worse. That said, the Bean series is a bit darker, but in my opinion just as good. I was also under the impression that both series were complete... although I could easily be wrong...

Shaun G

I've read all the Ender/Bean books, starting back when I was in high school, when I asked the school librarian if she would recommend a book, and she handed me "Ender's Game."

I recommend the series to everyone -- and you may be interested to know that for years, there's been talk of a film version of "Ender's Game."

You may also enjoy some of OSC's other works. The non-Ender-series book I enjoyed the most was "Treason":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Planet_Called_Treason

ejpostma

I'm actually just finishing up Shadow Puppets, one of the latter books in the Bean "fork." I've enjoyed it quite a bit, although all the plotting and scheming was starting to get really annoying. However, there is a turinging point in the book (concerning pro-life issues) that really increased my respect for the author and enjoyment of the characters. Without giving away much, Bean and Peter both start to really discover their humanity for the first time.
As for the other books, I've read them over the course of nearly two decades now, so much of them have fadded from memory. However, I do remember enjoying all of them(even Speaker, generally considered to be the weak link due to the lack of action) and look forward to reading the more recent books in the series. The one negative that I would mention is that-as a previous poster writes-they get kind of strange, particularly certain elements of Children of the Mind.

SDH

I must say that that book has to be one of my favorite books.

The Masked Chicken

I have not read any of Card's works, but from what I have read of him, he is very respectful of Christianity.

Another SF writer I can highly recommend who is not only respectful of Christianity, but starts each chapter of her most famous book with a quote from Scripture, is Zenna Henderson. If you have not read The People, treat yourself. She got high praise from Asimov in his year-by-year anthology of best SF stories.

Her works have been collected in a single volume called, Ingathering. These are great stories for kids to read and she has a gift for writing prose that is nearly poetic.

The Chicken

Darren

Ender's Game has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in ninth grade, 20 years ago.

I never really liked any of the others, though. I'll be interested to hear your comments.

Joy Schoenberger

Ender's Game is a good book, and Card is a good author. He is a Mormon, and many of his novels reflect that, including one called Saints about a contemporary of Joseph Smith. His novels on the Women of Genesis are very well done. Stone Tables, about Moses, is good for about the first half, but then it digresses from the Biblical account with some Mormon beliefs about Moses knowing about Jesus.

Ender's Game, though a great story, is a bit problematic. I strongly recommend this article for a different perspective on Ender as an "Innocent Killer." The main point of the article is this: "Card argues that the morality of an act is based solely on the intentions of the person acting," which is a dangerous lesson to be teaching.

Joy Schoenberger

Ender's Game is a good book, and Card is a good author. He is a Mormon, and many of his novels reflect that, including one called Saints about a contemporary of Joseph Smith. His novels on the Women of Genesis are very well done. Stone Tables, about Moses, is good for about the first half, but then it digresses from the Biblical account with some Mormon beliefs about Moses knowing about Jesus.

Ender's Game, though a great story, is a bit problematic. I strongly recommend this article for a different perspective on Ender as an "Innocent Killer." The main point of the article is this: "Card argues that the morality of an act is based solely on the intentions of the person acting," which is a dangerous lesson to be teaching.

SteveL

It's a very good book and the others are excellent as well.

Elaine T

I loved it, too, quite a few years ago. I haven't picked it up lately - I got tired of Card's obsessions and character torture.

He's a gifted writer of page turners. And also wrote the only book dealing with polygamy that made women from a monagamous culture choosing it plausible to me. (Albeit I still thought the men were running a scam.) I forget the title, but it was about the first Mormons.

The one thing I would point out that Kessell's "Innocent Killer" article glides over while making some very good points, is that at least once Ender was aware of committing an awful deed. When he [SPOILER DELETED], he knows he's doing something awful. He's choosing to, so the people in charge will stop him. He thinks they'll reject him because [SPOILER DELETED].

So at least once the author had him deliberately choosing evil, even if [SPOILER DELETED].

It is a very difficult book on the ethics questions. Card is so skilled a writer it's hard to see.

Oh, btw, as far as I'm concerned Card goes off the deep end - just writing-wise - in the sequels. Xenocide was painful reading. Half was good, it's too bad there was the rest.

labrialumn

Rowling does let you believe that, doesn't she?

Sifu Jones

"Ender's Game" was a book I read for the first time just a year or two ago, and it really was worth the wait. Card is a bit of a sci-fi snob in interviews, but he probably has a right to be.

Friends familiar with the entire series kind of pan the books after #1, but I've been meaning to see for myself. Now's probably a good time!

I wonder how the movie will turn out . . .

Sean S.

I actually thought Speaker for the Dead was _awesome_. . .but it's nothing like Ender's Game. Nothing like at all. So don't go into it expecting it to be a similar book in any way.

Jimmy Akin

NOTE: As per the addition to the post above, PLEASE AVOID SIGNIFICANT SPOILERS for books in the Ender universe in the combox.

Jeffrey G (a Lutheran)

It's hard to talk about the Ender universe without spoilers. I liked Ender's Game but found the premise of Speaker repulsive.

The main point of the article is this: "Card argues that the morality of an act is based solely on the intentions of the person acting," which is a dangerous lesson to be teaching.

Posted by: Joy Schoenberger

Pardon me, but how is that much different than saying you can't commit a mortal sin unless you know you are comming a mortal sin (or however that goes)?


Elaine T

Sorry for the spoilers that Jimmy had to take out. I don't get other people's aversion to them, but I try not to ruin things for those who do have it. Sometimes I forget. Apologies.

to Jeffrey G's question, I think Card's moral universe, - the Ender-verse, at any rate, doesn't have room for natural law. The Catechism says: " But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest."

I don't remember Card implying or overtly dealing with the possibility that some things are Just Wrong, no two ways about it, intentions of less harm or no harm don't cut it: The result is what it is, and the act was wrong.


SDG

I think Ender, and Ender's Game, realizes that the act in question involves a grave evil and a gravely wrong act (to use the Catholic language). The denouement -- which John Kessel's critical essay almost totally ignores -- makes that quite clear, I think.

That doesn't make Ender personally guilty in the way that Kessel wants to argue. Ender does lack sufficient reflection and thus is minimally not fully (gravely) responsible for the act. That doesn't necessarily absolve him of all responsibility, and it certainly doesn't make the act itself "all right." But I think Kessel presses his argument too far. I think Card's treatment here is reasonably convergent with Catholic moral thinking.

Clearly we are meant to sympathize with Ender. I don't think we're meant to like everything about him, or to approve of everything he does.

As regards how Ender is treated by his leaders and other authorities, I think there's a lot of grey area here. Not clearly defensible, not clearly condemnable.

JoAnna

Just IMO, but I think Harry's 11 years of mistreatment at the hands of the Dursleys is enough "work" for any "most important child in the world" to go through!!

I'll be sure to check out "Ender's Game" et al - sounds fascinating.

Doug Sirman

For my money, "Speaker.." is the better of the two and the best of the series. The final book of the Ender branch descends into a lot of Mormon, pseudo-cosmology which, while presented as climactic, is decidedly not. IOW, I found it a pointless resolution. With a little knowledge of the back-story, "Speaker.." easily stands on its own, and is an extraordinarily human tale.

Ender comes from a mixed marriage, with one Catholic and one Mormon parent. OSC worked as a Mormon missionary in, I think, Brazil and is not unfamiliar with Catholicism as it is practiced, rather than as we might have it. That caveat speaks volumes.

francis

Jimmy,

You, of course, are free to not like the Harry Potter books. But I think you are missing the point of the series by putting it in a preconceived box - in this case, the "most important child in the world" genre.

It is true that HP is the "most important child in the world" in the series. It is also true that he discovers this pretty quickly in book 1. However, what Rowling does is to spend the next 6 1/2 books detailing what this means in his life, especially emphasizing the sacrifices this position entails.

In other words, HP gets his "wish fulfillment" immediately, but then over the next 7 years realizes that sometimes our wishes have serious consequences that must be faced. That, I think, is what makes HP a marvelous series of books.

?4Masked Chicken

Masked Chicken,

When you recommend Zenna Henderson for kids what age do you have in mind? I am always on the look out for a good book series for my daughter. She consumes books. She turns 1O in two days.

And which title would you suggest as an introduction to the series, the Ingathering?

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

The Masked Chicken

Dear Inocenio,

Typepad went bizzerk, twice, when I tried to post my answer. I have taken out all of the links, and I will try, again. My earlier reply:

If you go to the Amazon.com page for the Ingathering, you will notice an interesting point: There are 42 reviews and nothing but five-star ratings for this book. This is the first time I have ever seen this happen on Amazon.com.

According to Wikipedia, she had a kind of an eclectic spirituality: baptized Mormon, she married and (apparently) converted to Methodism, although in later years attended an independent charismatic church.

Typepad will not let me put in very many links before it starts going bizzerk, but a quick Google search will turn up the Zenna Henderson homepage (she died in 1983 - the page is a fan site) that has links to a number of reviews. I would start, however, by reading the Wikepedia article.

Henderson was an elementary school teacher, so she certainly understands the mind of the young child better than almost any science fiction writer (Card cited her as one of his influences).

In the end, she is something of an enigma. Was she a proto-feminist; a pre-feminist; a Christian; a Mormon; a teacher-turned-writer?

The best thing to do might be to check out her books from the library and read them, yourself, and see if they are right for you daughter. She is famous for four collections of short-stories: The People and The People: no different flesh are linked together and form a pair, Holding Wonder and The Anything Box are later works and some of the stories can be frightening for young children. Henderson never curses, never utters an invective, never hits anyone, never has sex in any of her stories and yet her power of writing can make scenes painfully desirable or painfully wrenching. In fact, the first story in The People starts with a woman trying to kill herself by jumping off of a bridge. It is painful to read, but the woman gets the shock of her life and begins a long process of healing when she hears a voice in the darkness just before she jumps.

Is this too intense for children? I don't know. One of her stories in the book is written specifically within the setting of a one-room school house (most children about ten - twelve years old). This was made into a movie in 1971 starring (believe it or not) William Shatner and Kim Darby (they were both in the Star Trek TOS episode, Miri). It was released to videocassette (may be found on Amazon.com), but not released, to my knowledge, to DVD. It is a haunting story on video, but still does not do justice to the short-story.

Most of the stories in the first book concern trying to keep a teacher in the one-room school house for the community from leaving or going insane when some of the children "slip" and start floating.

If your daughter is mature enough to read the Time Quarter by Madeline L'Engle (A Wrinkle in Time, etc.) or the Space Trilogy series by C. S. Lewis (Out of the Silent Planet, etc.), then she will probably enjoy the first two of Henderson's books (these are collected and reprinted in, Ingathering). I might consider waiting on the other two. Those works, even though some stories involve children, have such a complex psychological depth that they might seem more puzzling to children.

Still, five-stars and nothing less on Amazon.com. Even Ender's game wasn't so highly rated.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken

Sorry, Inocencio. I misspelled your name. It was my third time trying to get the answer posted and I think I spelled it right the time before this that also did not go through.

The Chicken

The Masked Chicken

Last comment. I noticed three errors in my long post, above: 1) there are actually two four-star rating for Ingathering on Amazon.com (must get new glasses), 2) the movie was made in 1972, and 3) the sentence should read: Henderson was an elementary school teacher, so she certainly understood the mind of the young child better than almost any science fiction writer (Card cited her as one of his influences).

The Chicken

Inocencio

Masked Chicken,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful and very informative response.

I will try to check out one of the books on my next trip to the library.

Take care and God bless,
Inocencio
J+M+J

Vince C

"It also happens to be readable by kids (though there is some crude language in it, largely related to flatulence--which, as Card points out in an afterword to the audio book edition, is inescapable if you want to write realistically about boys)."

Only about the ill-bred boys that pervade modern literature and film and now seem to be de rigueur. I don't remember any of this type of literary device being necessary in Tom Sawyer, Johnny Tremain, etc, etc. ;)

Uhura

What this book is about is psychology--the psychology of command and leadership and human relationships.

I haven't read these particular books, but I think those qualities are what make a good story. That's why the original Star Trek series is still good.

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