An account of the years between child admiral Ender Wiggins’ defeat of the formics and his career as Speaker for the Dead.
I have only read Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind–and honestly only the first two stuck with me–so I was largely unfamiliar with the backstory featuring Bean and Petra Arkanian that figures largely in Ender in Exile. Still, it was a welcome pleasure to re-immerse myself in the world of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who was unwittingly used to destroy an entire alien race of giant, telepathic bugs when he was just a child of six. Now a highly decorated admiral in his early teens, he must navigate the politics of a newly configured universe, while attempting to understand the “buggers” he annihilated.
As usual, Orson Scott Card’s characterizations are a little flat, and some of the dialogue exchanges are expository and downright irritating. He seems to have it in for mothers in this book, or perhaps he always has and I’m only just noticing it now that I have a kid of my own. However, I really enjoyed Card’s explication of the political machinations between the characters as they grapple for power over the newly created world of Shakespeare (known as Colony I in previous books). Ender faces off with his opponents in surprising and suspenseful ways, with an acumen worthy of the man he will become.
The book lacks the intriguing ethical and moral dilemmas that made Speaker for the Dead so compelling, and more than anything whet my appetite to re-read that as well as Ender’s Game. I ought to check out the Shadow books but for some reason I’m less interested in that storyline, even after learning some of it in Ender in Exile.
A bonus is Card’s afterword, where he openly admits to the challenges of adding a new installment to a series containing several thousand pages. He relied on help from his fans for fact checking, and will be republishing Ender’s Game with a new final chapter to make it compatible with the later books. I’m a bit of a purist so I hope that the new edition remains a companion piece, and does not supplant the original version.