Xenocide (Anglais) Cahier – 15 août 1992
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Éven Ender becomes a weak sop, with only a bit part to play at the end, when he accidently brings his brother Peter back for a second life - the only time things start to get interesting, but then he leaves and the story ends! Very little action. Very poor. Not recommended!
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Ender's Game is all about Ender's childhood development, as he trains to become the savior of humanity. Speaker for The Dead explores some larger issues as it tracks Ender's healing of Novinha's dysfunction family, and the plot is kept going partially through the mysteries concerning the pequininos. Xenocide is different from both of these in that there's no real main character, and very little plot; instead, the focus of the story is the dillema faced by the three sentient species of Lusitania. Within this framework, Card explores a number of unusual ethical questions, such as whether human survival justifies the extermination of another species, and whether fear of the unknown will always be a barrier when interacting with those unlike ourselves. He also develops the complex web of love and hatred within Novinha's family, and the nature of the relationships within it. At times it was almost painful to read about the emotional states of the characters, so well did Card depict it. Yet I was completely hooked from the start, and I marvel at his ability to write about some very abstract issues within a science fiction setting.
If anything, the situation Card created was too hopeless, and once things started resolving the plot became a bit incredulous. One reviewer suggested that Card wrote himself into a corner and had to resort to cheap plot devices to save himself, and that's certainly how it looks to me. Happily, this occurs so near the end it doesn't detract much from the overall value of the book. (However, the consequences are compounded in the final book, Children of the Mind, which is the only one of the four I do not recommend reading.)
I enjoyed Xenocide as much as, if not more than Ender's Game and SftD. (One has to admit that Ender's Game, fantastic as it is, is much more simplistic and lightweight than Xenocide.) As long as you don't enter with undue expectations and you are willing to explore some tough ethical issues, then you'll see the merits of this book, perhaps the most human novel Card has written.
The general pattern in the whole series is:
The beginning book is Ender's Game. Then we have two subcategories, one the Shadow series (which, with the exception of the first book, take place on earth and are more within military strategy) and one the Ender series (which take place in space and are more into new sci-fi ideas). Shadow series probably can be read from everyone, while I guess that the Ender series (especially from Speaker for the Dead onwards) would be read mainly from sci-fi fans.
Below are my comments for the books of the series, in the order I have read them and a marking (10 is the highest mark):
Shadow of the Hegemon: The first book I have read, and which I could not leave from my hands. I finished it in 2 days. It was fast paced action, very smart plot and after reading it I believed that Orson Scot Card (OSC) has invented/re-invented a new genre of literature. That of military strategy and adventure combined with brilliance/mind games and hidden portions of romance. Such books always existed but this seemed to be THE book. It was like the way Dan Brown re-invented books with trivials and puzzles, together with fast paced adventure. I strongly recommend it to everybody that likes such type of books. (mark: 10)
Shadow puppets: The sequel to the above. I found it interesting but somehow boring as the above story developed little and the focus was on the characters (maybe too much focus so that it seemed to me that it was slightly mumbling jumbling. Strategy, brilliance and adventure seemed to be very low here. I would not recommend it for anybody to read it in isolate, unfortunately you have to read it if you want to go to the next book. I really believe that OSC made a mistake here (deliberately or not) as this book should have been told in 50-60 pages and be included in the previous or the next book. (mark: 6 but you will read it because you will want to read Shadow of the Giant)
Shadow of the Giant: (see below)
Ender's game: A really great book to read, probably the best of the series, however, as I had read its sequels first, when I reached the 80% of this book, I had predicted the end. However, it's at the highest standards of sci-fi, military strategy, adventure, brilliant mind games and very good depth in the human aspect of the characters. In comparison to the shadow series, it is more "space" sci-fi, while shadow series have much lesser sci-fi elements and are more down to earth. (mark: 10)
Speaker for the dead: Another great book, but different style. Less adventure, more human aspect, more maturity. Brilliance yes, but not military, sci-fi yes (some great ideas) but not spaceship style. (Mark: 9)
Xenocide: A good sequel of the previous novel. In certain points more brilliant, in other sections more boring, however is again a very good sci-fi book. The only flaw in these series (Speker for the dead, Xenocide, Children of the mind) is the idea behind one of the alien species described which I found outrageously extreme, however if you ignore it becomes first class reading. (Mark: 9)
Children of the mind: I think that OSC has wrapped up his case pretty badly in that one. It's a fair book except the fact that I felt that OSC mumbles jumbles for one third of the novel not having decided how to end it. In other critiques I have found it described as nice approach to moral dilemmas, however, moral dilemma is when you describe it once and make your choice, while here the dilemma is repeated and repeated... I felt like I was watching a movie worth 10 oscars and the end did not worth to be included even in a cheap video movie. And again, many open ends at the end (for possible sequels). (Mark: 7 but you will read it as you will be hooked from the previous ones).
Ender's shadow: Having read Enders Game and Shadow of the Hegemon, I found this book probably the best of the series, which of course is my subjective preference. I could characterize it as probably the best book I have read ever! Not to repeat myself, it has all that Shadow of the Hegemon and Ender's Game have, and even more...(Mark: the absolute 10).
Shadow of the Giant: When I read shadow puppets, I said, "that's it, OSC has lost either his talent or his appetite for good writing...", so I was pretty unwilling to read it. Fortunately I decided to, as it proved to be a good one, were I believe that OSC has nicely wrapped up his story, with two small flaws.
* The one is described below (its end needed to be slightly more complete) and,
* The other is the fact that although he describes certain smart battles, he does not focus enough on them as it seems that he is in a hurry to wrap all things up. It had all elements to become a masterpiece but it ended up being a good to read book (Mark: 9)
In general, both series have three categories of good stuff:
1) Some great sci-fi ideas (battle room, battle games, fantasy game, ansible, aia, Jane, in/out travel, raman varelse etc)
2) Great military strategy, mind games etc combined with adventure
3) In certain books, depth of characters, moral dilemmas etc
And two main bad stuff:
1) Mumbling jumbling in certain books which was completely unnecessary (either OSC wanted just to produce and sell another title - see shadow puppets- or he could not decide how the story will continue-see last book of Ender series).
2) One of the alien species described in the Ender series was so too outrageous even for sci-fi that made it look ridiculous. The idea behind it was brilliant in sci-fi terms, but he could try a different living organism...
Finally, OSC has left open ends in both series (probably for next sequels), however I believe that there are two things missing. a) the story of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, told in a metaphorical manner so it means much for humanity. b) In ancient theatre, a story should end in a way that brings "katharsis" to the story, and the souls of the readers. I believe that the end of the shadow of the giant may be smart for commercial purposes but it was very unfair to the reader as it did not bring full "katharsis".
This book was even better!!
True, it was not as action backed as "Ender's Game" but nonetheless it was an amazing book that dove deep into the human behavior. How does one treat an alien race that is different than one's own? How about a human who is reacting out of guilt and secrecy? Can you learn to understand someone, even when they are `evil' and do bad things?
It was with great joy that I picked up the third book in the series, "Xenocide" (especially since book two ended before everything was resolved).
Sadly enough, I have to report that "Xenocide" failed to uphold the same standard as the first two... =(
Well, kind of... the first three-fourth of the book was fairly good as Card tried hard to explore how one could live side-by-side with aliens, who by their very existence, places your life in danger. He also explores the nature of life and what it means to be alive.
I grant you that these are not easy questions/topics to explore...so some grace must be given to Card for tackling such concepts. However I must say that Card ended up backing himself into a corner with tons of major problems for his characters that could not be solved easily...
So instead of letting them die or having them fail, he jumps the shark and solves 95% of the problems with one action.
Normally I let an author get away with as there are times when something has to give...yet... when Card has his characters recreating their bodies, figuring out faster-than-light travel, bring 3,000 year old dead people to life, and developing new forms of a virus by simply WISHING for it... sorry, I can't go there... that is a tad much for me.
True, he develops a huge `scientific' theory/argument for such wishing...but no...can't buy it. =?
Sorry, Mr. Card, but you lost me.
"Xenocide" is, on may levels, as equally captivating as "Speaker for the Dead" because author Orson Scott Card focuses on what he does best, character development and character interactions. Such focus is what made "Speaker for the Dead" and "Ender's Game" spectacular novels and Nebula award winners. "Xenocide" keeps much of that momentum going. The politics on the planet among the species (the Buggers have also been reborn there) are quite compelling. The efforts of the high-minded members of the human and piggie species to prevent the ignition of a bloody civil war caused by ignorant members of both species is both harrowing and suspenseful. The events take place 30 years after "Speaker for the Dead" and Novinha's children are all grown now and play major roles in the resolution of this conflict. Seeing how they have evolved from the broken children when Ender first arrived in "Speaker..." is one of the more satisfying aspects of "Xenocide". The paths in life they have chosen are wholly believable and the reader can see that, without Ender's intercession decades earlier, these children might never had the opportunity to make the choices they make here.
This book is nearly 600 pages long, but powers forward at a rapid clip until about the last 100 pages. It is there that "Xenocide" goes on an existential path that would continue into, and plague, "Children of the Mind". Without revealing any plot details, it can be said that this literary choice of Card's dramatically slows the momentum created by the previous 2 1/2 books. Since it only occurs over the last 100 pages, it doesn't slow the reader down so much that they would be compelled to put the book down. It does, however, make reading the sequel, "Children of the Mind", more difficult.
Card seemingly wanted to explore a higher meaning in the overall story arc with this development. It just seems unnecessary because the character-driven stories he had told up to this point clearly revealed a greater meaning that just simply science fiction novels would. Complaints aside, "Xenocide" is still an excellent book and a good read for anyone who appreciated what "Speaker for the Dead" stood for.