Book Review: Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card

Tor Books, 384 pgs.

Ender in ExileIf you are a fan of Orson Scott Card, you might like it, or, if you are a fan and believe this series has jumped the shark, then you might not like it. If you are a former fan and stopped reading him because his opinions on human sexuality and society annoy you, you might not like it. If you agree with his opinions on human sexuality and society, you still might not like it because you believe this series jumped the shark somewhere around Xenocide If not earlier. Then again, you might like it anyway. Because it is essentially a three hundred sixty nine page propaganda pamphlet promoting the evils of single parenthood, and describing how only heterosexual monogamy ensures the stability of society, and should be maintained at all costs.

No, really, I am not kidding. Three hundred and sixty nine pages of propaganda, wrapped around Card’s usual array of dysfunctional, embittered, crazy, and just plain angry and resentful characters. The ‘single parents are naturally bad’ theme is worked in via Alessandra and Dorabella Toscano, and Randall Firth’s extremely unhinged mother, Nichelle. Both Dorabella and Nichelle are various flavors of crazy (Dorabella pretends to be a light hearted free spirit ‘fairy woman’ who doesn’t need to follow standard social mores, while actually being extremely manipulative and emotionally abusive. One could make the argument that Card is also making a comment about Otherkin, but that would be too easy. Nichelle is a fangirl of one of the villains in the Shadows companion series of the Ender books, Achilles de Flandres. Nichelle believes that her son is the child of Achilles, and is raising him to get revenge on Ender, and his brother Peter.)

Of course, you could argue that Card is also making a case against two-parent families as well, since Ender’s mom and dad are real pieces of work. They are both onto Peter’s schemes of world domination through superior spin-doctoring, but fail to do anything about it, or his treatment/coercion of his sister Valentine. (Maybe they think everyone needs a hobby, and Peter’s might as well be ruling the world.) Despite being initially hopeful that Ender will be able to return to Earth and live a normal life now that he’s won the war, they come to realization that he can’t come home for various reasons, the foremost being that various world governments would really like to get their hands on a military genius–even if he is a possibly dangerous murderer of other children. So they decide to leave him in space, and not contact him directly. In return, because Ender is feeling abandoned, he doesn’t contact them either–which makes them feel hurt, but they STILL don’t contact him. When they’re presented with an opportunity to go into space themselves to see him in person, they decline, stating that Ender is a “grown up” now and doesn’t need his parents. And this goes round and around for quite some time until he writes to them asking why they never bothered to write him.

For the monogamy is the best thing since sliced bread side, we have a side story involving the chief biologist of a colony world and his assistant. No, they aren’t married, but said assistant is very attracted to him so she makes the corniest play ever for him. (And she also attempts to use the very “flattering” excuse that said biologist has Very Good Genes. If they were all that great, she should have talked about it with her husband, and they could have asked him for a donation, say I.) She is turned down because said assistant is married to someone else. Included in the turn-down is a lecture about how monogamy is “proven” to be the only thing that holds society together, which is why the colony decided on it, despite having and extremely unbalanced male to female ratio.

As was previously mentioned, Ender is stuck in Battle School due to the fact that he is So Very Dangerous. All the other children at the school however are going home, because while they’re supposedly military geniuses, they aren’t as dangerous as Ender, because they are not as homicidal as Ender tends to be. (One wonders if some of the dialog between characters discussing Ender’s motives and psychology where self-defense is concerned is in fact a commentary to readers who are disturbed by how supportive the narrative is of Ender’s self-defense methods.) Ender occupies himself with studying the Formics and being very, very emo. When he’s offered the opportunity to leave on a colony ship heading for one of the former Formic worlds, and become a colony governor, he accepts. Valentine decides to join him, freeing herself of her persona Demosthenes, the jingoistic character created by her brother Peter to serve as the natural foil for his politically moderate persona, Locke. (I am not entirely sure this gambit would work anywhere except an Orson Scott Card story.)

Meanwhile, two very unhinged single parents make preparations to leave for the colonies. One is the extremely hyper and eccentric Dorabella Toscano, and the other is Nichelle Firth who is apparently made of crazy and stupid. (She draws attention to herself, and despite everyone figuring out almost instantly that she’s dangerous and made of crazy, they let her go.) Dorabella and her long suffering daughter Alessandra end up on the same colony ship as Ender, and Dorabella tries to set Ender up with her daughter. This does not really go well, because Ender has other things on his mind beside slightly crazed women and their daughters. Such as a ship captain who seems bound and determined to undermine Ender’s position and take over the colony himself. The Captain’s ambitions are foiled, and Ender rescues Alessandra from her made-of-crazy mother.

Nichelle on the other hand, ends up on the same ship as Virlomi, another Battle School alumnus, who also realizes she’s made of crazy but does nothing to stop her. Nichelle’s particular variety of crazy is passed on to her surrogate son Randall, who immediately becomes a rabble rouser, inspiring hate and indignation toward Ender in specific and the government in general. (He is in fact the person who began the negative propaganda of “Ender the Xenocide.”) Virlomi decides to call on the help of Ender, who has completed his term as governor at his colony.

Ender arrives and confronts Randall Firth, giving him information that Randall is not in fact the son of Achilles, but is instead the son of Ender’s best friend Bean. Randall makes an attempt at becoming a martyr, and tries to provoke Ender into killing him. Ender on the other hand refuses to fight him on the grounds that Firth is the son of his best friend. After an emotional and violent encounter, Firth realizes that Ender is telling the truth, and decides to rename himself Arkanian Delphiki.


Ender in Exile on Amazon

Ender in Exile on Powell’s Books

 

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2 Comments

Filed under distant future, orson scott card, Review: Book, space invaders=post, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Book Review: Ender in Exile, by Orson Scott Card

  1. Included in the turn-down is a lecture about how monogamy is “proven” to be the only thing that holds society together, which is why the colony decided on it, despite having and extremely unbalanced male to female ratio. He's not a very well-read biologist given how little true monogamy exists in non-human animals, even those that seemingly pair-bond. (Genetics is wonderful!) Not to mention, well… hell, Card came from a religion that was polygynous in its formation and decided it was a sin only once the US government required the illegality of polygamy for Utah's admittance into the country.

  2. I think Card's argument is that the only thing keeping humans from being barbarian savages or "mere animals" is is absolute heterosexual monogamy. Or something. (Despite the fact that he seems to be the "Women and Men are two completely alien species that do not actually comprehend each other" type.)

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