Ender in Exile

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When friends ask me what books I might recommend, I usually don’t even ask about the genre and go for two of my favorites:  Battlefield Earth and Ender’s Game.

I don’t have any reservations recommending these books.  To my Christian friends, these may be considered somewhat curious choices amongst all Battlefield Earththe many possibilities.  It’s not that either  book is dogmatically against the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (Bible).

Rather, Battlefield Earth was written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Dianetics and ultimately the “Church” of Scientology.   It also had the misfortune of being made into one of the worst movies ever made.  John Travolta may have earned accolades elsewhere, but he remains in the debt of anyone who treasures this book for the dreck in which he starred.   It’s a great book and deserved far better, such as being left alone.

Ender’s Game was written by Orson Scott Card, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and Ender's GameLatter Day Saints – which shares some terminology with mainline Christianity but which is otherwise contradictory.  He’s also an excellent writer.

Ender’s Game, released in 1985, is a remarkable book which has been enjoyed by many youth and adults alike.  It’s about a child born with genetic expectations of being the best military leader ever to lead in war, who ultimately saves humankind from a warring species by his strategy and triumphant spirit – while still being a kid.  Sure, sounds like Cornflakes or Special K, as sci-fi plots go.  But there’s more.

The heart of the book centers on Ender’s training at a Battle Station, in which he becomes “the little guy” that every person can root for, yet also “the cunning guy” that every reader imagines him/herself to be.  It’s done well enough that most readers probably leave the story with an emotional attachment of some sort to him, or, at the least, feel a kinship in that if if they were in the same scenarios, they would be just as clever.

Actually, it’s the author who was clever, and his characters have endured a continuing series of books about Ender and also about Bean, at first Ender's Shadowa fairly insubstantial character who is as carefully and well constructed in a companion series beginning with Ender’s Shadow.

All that history thus abbreviated, the author decided to fill in some gaps in the Ender series, specifically at that point in the storyline when Ender was most interesting and endearing to the reader – at the end of the first book.

So, we begin his journey…  and despite the title of Ender in Exile, it starts off like a visit to an old friend.  Several hundred pages later, you’re glad you spent some time with Ender, if only to understand him a little better.  There’s one, no, wait, two points of Ender in Exiletension that allow Ender to be Ender, both of which are dispatched in fine examples of anti-climaticism.  If I just made up that word, it’s okay.  It’s appropriate.

As a general rule, science fiction tends to present the universe in non-theistic terms, whereas in fantasy, you may get all sorts of spiritual aspects.  No doubt related to Card’s Mormonism, he does offer a refreshing approach to Ender, the greatest, smartest, and most illustrious human ever.  Ender accepts rather matter of factly a xenobiologist’s statement, “Most scientists believe in God,” a rather daring proclamation in the context of the “evolution” of alien biology.  Although theistic tones are found throughout the Ender series, it’s refreshing to see an author risk censure from a stereotypical audience that tends to decry any such pronouncement.

That take-away notwithstanding, the plot is straightforward.  Ender moves from Space Station A to World B to World C to the great beyond of the other books in the seasons.  Each stop is necessitated by well defined and thoroughly satisfying reasons that sate the reader’s desire to understand Ender better.  Throughout, Card remains a very thoughtful and caring protector of his greatest character.  Still, despite its length, the story may as well have been edited into the most recent version of Ender’s Game, in a (admittedly lengthy) chapter named “Epilogue.”

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

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