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MathTeacherGuy
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The Ender's Game series has long been my favorite series of books. As a junior high teacher, I've been very encouraged to see many of my students reading and enjoying Ender's Game for the first time, but I've also been concerned that they might read Speaker for the Dead next and find it unpalatable. (I know I did not enjoy it the first time I read it as a teenager.) I ended up putting together a reading list, suggesting that they should read the Shadow books and Ender in Exile first. Soon I found myself handing this same list off to colleagues at my school and other friends and acquaintances. Turns out the upcoming movie, not to mention the various related controversy, has lots of people interested in this series, either for the first reading or a revisiting.

So when an acquaintance and I started discussing potential articles I could write for his blog about books, Ender's Game was not just the obvious choice, it was the only choice. The increased interest from movie release gives me a perfect chance to geek out about my favorite series and actually have people care what I have to say. Plus, I figured it would be a great opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussion with the hardcore fans. Unfortunately, very few of the folks reading the blog have engaged in much discussion beyond "How old do you recommend my kids should be to read this?"

So when I found a community that cares as much - or more - than I do, I thought it would be great to see what you all think of what I've put together so far. From the forum topics I've read, I already respect your opinions and would love to get some feedback. My big goal in writing my articles is to create more discussion of these excellent books, as well as encouraging people to read more than just the original book.

Here are the articles I've written so far:

Overview of the Series. This includes my recommended reading order, as well as which books and stories I consider essential and which ones I like, but feel can be safely skipped.

Series Review. This article goes over the main reasons I enjoy this series so much, as well as some of the gripes I have.

Ender's Game review. What it says on the tin.

Ender's Shadow review. Yep.

Shadow of the Hegemon review. Another Tuesday, another article.

Shadow Puppets review. Special thanks to my editor for calling me out on a ridiculous run-on sentence.

Shadow of the Giant review. Another thanks to my reviewer, for pointing out some issues with my original intro.

Shadows in Flight review. This review took longer than expected for a shorter book.

Ender in Exile review. A review of the book I feel most conflicted about.

Speaker for the Dead review, part 1. Part 1 of my review details my first experience with the book, when I didn't enjoy it nearly as much.

Speaker for the Dead review, part 2. Part 2, in which I do a good bit of soul-searching with Speaker as a guide.

Xenocide review. My review of what I consider the most polarizing book in the series. Certainly the one on which my own opinions are most widely divided.

Children of the Mind review. Another review of a book that I have a love/hate relationship with. More love than hate, obviously, or I wouldn't bother reading it so many times.

A War of Gifts review. A shorter review for a shorter book. I actually enjoyed it more than anticipated.

First Meetings review. Review of "The Polish Boy", "Teacher's Pest", and "The Investment Counselor". Probably reviewing the original short story later.

Intergalactic Medicine Show review. This review goes over the stories "Mazer in Prison", "Pretty Boy", "Cheater", and "Ender's Stocking".

Ender's Game Movie review. My review of the movie. Probably the hardest opinion for me to pin down in words.

Afterword. A few final thoughts after reading and reviewing all of these books.

If you have the time to read these, I'd appreciate any feedback. It's one thing for my mom to say she liked my article; I'm more interested to hear from a community that makes casual references some of the same inconsistencies that have always bothered me.

(For the record, I'm a guest writer for this blog and don't receive any ad revenue. So don't feel like I'm posting here just to pimp my blog and drive up page-views for monetary gain.)

[ November 19, 2013, 10:02 PM: Message edited by: MathTeacherGuy ]

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millernumber1
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Site seems to be down?
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MathTeacherGuy
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Huh, I just checked it now and it seemed to be working properly.
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millernumber1
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As a new teacher myself, I've had my students read both Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow for their final papers, and found the results quite interesting. I agree that many people coming from Game to Speaker are jarred - I know I was - but I fell in love with the character of Jane, and that was my emotional through-line through the things I wasn't expecting. I'm looking forward to the upcoming semester, when I'm hoping even more students will chose the book (probably hoping that seeing the movie will allow them to not read the book...but I have plans to confound that hope!)

Your blog posts are quite nice - here are my thoughts, in bullet points, as I reread them:

"Overview"

While I understand the perspective that Ender's Game and the Shadow books are more engaging, I personally love the Speaker books (particularly Children of the Mind), because of my aforementioned love for Jane's arc, as well as Miro's growth and the development of Valentine and Peter's characters in very different ways. I like the ways Card explores nooks and crannies of his world in the short stories - perhaps it's "fluff," but I think there's value in the techniques and perspectives he achieves in that short form. They definitely don't feel lesser in terms of craftsmanship, though some of them are perhaps a bit more didactic than the novels, which have the same philosophical content but more narrative to leaven the loaf of story. [Smile]

"Series Review"

Nicely laid out. I think your observation on family is probably somewhat true - the Cards went through the growing up of a son with severe disabilities, as well as that son's death, during the mid-00s, and I do think that played into the series. However, even with the thematic shift, I found Ender in Exile often hauntingly familiar in the way it captured Ender, Valentine, and the concerns of the original novel, even as it was strange and new.

The bodily functions one is just something I think OSC finds interesting and funny - a way of puncturing the overseriousness that often characterizes very philosophical or world-in-jeopardy books. Plus, his characters are often kids. I know I loved that kind of things when I was young. [Smile]

Inconsistencies - some of these are no doubt just the result of writing over 30 years in the same universe while also working on many other projects and having a family - and the fact that OSC doesn't reread his books. Some of it is deliberate, though - OSC has commented on how he's written three different versions of Ender and Valentine's reconciliation after the Third Invasion, and he views each of them as true in their own way, but the most recent version as "the truest" because he's improved as a writer since then.

"Ender's Game"

I like the way you talk about the book capturing your sense of isolation - a lot of people I know have talked about how that's such a strength (something I've also noticed about the novel Jane Eyre). I do think that's a very important part of the book - though I also love the later books and their work at countering that isolation in found and created families.

I'm curious about the inconsistencies and slow spots you mention. Some times that might be characterized as "slow" I think are actually the most riveting - like the Lake Scene, where the entire world hangs on the fact that Ender doesn't care anymore, and can Valentine connect with him well enough to allow him to hope again. But possibly you're thinking of totally other slow spots!

"Ender's Shadow"

I like your observation that Ender's Shadow capitalizes on different aspect of the childhood/school experience than Ender's Game. Also, I agree that OSC had grown as a writer (he says he thinks the same thing in his afterword to the book [Smile] ). I think you note the pacing seems a lot smoother - I would also note that the transitions and tonal shifts are a lot more smoothly handled. The sections of Ender's Game are radically different from each other, while Ender's Shadow feels much more of a whole. I think the roughness of Ender's Game gives it some of its power - but I think that Ender's Shadow is a more polished work in many ways (and since I love Bean's journey and growth, it's equally powerful to me). Your experience - that Ender's Game moves you, but Ender's Shadow makes you cry - mirrors my own.

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vineyarddawg
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Nice series, MathTeacherGuy!

Reading order is a highly subjective thing, and I think your opinions on the matter are probably shaped by your experiences as a child with the Enderverse. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm merely stating that I believe it to be the case.)

As for me, I just came to the Enderverse about 2 years ago, and I read the books in publication order. In the absence of other factors, I usually prefer to read books in publication order (especially for a series written over many years) primarily because you can see how the author's thoughts and perspectives (and writing style) evolve as the series evolves.

For children, I can see how you'd encourage them to read the books that would typically appeal more to an audience their age, but as an adult first coming to the series, I enjoyed seeing the entire "Ender" story play out, then going back and reacquainting myself with the original story through a new set of eyes in the Shadow series.

Also, there's the "bugger vs. formic" terminology thing, and if you switch back and forth in the publication order, it's easy to get confused by why characters seem to switch between "buggers" and "formics" in the books without any real explanation of why you would go back to calling the lifeform a pejorative term after using the more formal term exclusively in a previous book. (Personally, I would have thought it was cool if "Hormigas" had stuck, but history doesn't always do what I want it to do!)

I keep coming back to one question when I read criticisms, and not just yours: Why does everyone center on the fart/bodily function jokes so much? It's not like this is scholarly material, and for most of the stories, these are children we're talking about, even if they're very smart children. Children like fart jokes.

To be honest, my biggest problem with the series is the idea that a kid could start writing a WordPress blog, start commenting on CNN.com stories, and become ruler of the world as a more-or-less direct result. Of course, the internet hadn't even been invented when Ender's Game was written, so one can hardly fault OSC too much for missing that evolution of technology so badly. It's simply an anachronistic plot hole that will stand out to current readers.

Overall, though, I think your synopses and analyses are well-written, even if I don't agree with all of them. [Smile]

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MathTeacherGuy
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Thanks for the responses!

In regards to the reading order thing, I really do love the Speaker series. Since growing up a bit, I've read the whole series in both publication and chronological order. I've just met a lot people (including adults I respect a lot) who either had a negative experience reading Speaker for the Dead or, worse, haven't read it yet because they were told it wasn't worth reading. Just the other day, my roommate's girlfriend told me all about how much she's enjoyed listening to Ender's Game on tape, but several people had told her not to bother with the sequel. So I figure the reading order I prefer might also help others to make it through and enjoy the Speaker books as much as I do.

millernumber1

My key for deciding what is essential to the story and what is fluff comes down to this: does it answer a question I already had, or does it only answer its own questions? I always wondered about Peter Wiggin's rise to power, so the Shadow series answered that question. I also always wanted to know more about what happened between Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, which Ender in Exile helps to answer. And the First and Second Invasion fascinated me since the first time I read Ender's Game.

On the other hand, while I enjoy the origin stories for Han Tzu and Bonzo, I don't feel like either gave me any insight into their character as seen in the core books, and I certainly never asked, "How did Hot Soup and Bonzo end up in Battle School?" Those two in particular felt like fluff to me. And while I like the rest of the story, I absolutely hate the bit in "The Polish Boy" where Graff suggests that John Paul might grow up and get married, and one of his kids could command the fleet. That just felt silly. It'll be a while before I get around to reviewing the short stories, but I do intend to give them a positive treatment. I just don't feel like everyone who likes the novels necessarily needs to track down every single little story.

As far as inconsistencies within Ender's Game, there are three that stand out the most. First, the book mentions in passing that Dink Meeker succeeded Rose as commander of Rat Army. Less than twenty pages later, we read that no one ever succeeds to command the army that they were in when they got promoted to command. Not a huge deal, just feels a bit off. Second, at the beginning of Dragon's first battle, we read that "Everyone had learned the wrong lesson from Bonzo's misuse of Ender", in reference to Rabbit Army deploying rapidly. However, Bonzo's misuse of Ender had nothing to do with the other armies starting to deploy the second battle starts; that happened after Rose ordered Ender to fly straight at the enemy when battle started, with devastating results. Again, nothing too important. Third, when Graff first talks to Valentine and requests a letter, he informs her that Ender will get his first leave at 18. Later, on the way to the lake, Valentine wonders why she gets to see him so soon when Graff told her he wouldn't get his first leave till 16. Hardly worth worrying about.

You were right about the lake scene. However, this most recent reading, I enjoyed it more than usual. I also get bored during the part where Ender is stagnant and Graff commissions that letter, and the Fantasy Game interests me less every time. Now that I think about it, I most notice inconsistencies at the parts where I feel like the pacing slows down.

The inconsistency that has always driven me crazy in Ender's Shadow is the number of veterans in Dragon Army. When Bean first draws up the roster, he includes 17 veteran soldiers from the transfer list and 23 launchies. Later, he refers to the fact that every toon leader and second was a veteran, and all veterans were either a toon leader or a second. That's only 10 positions for the 17 veterans. The number changes further when Ender leaves and we read that every toon leader and second is promoted to command, as well as Bean. That number would be 11, but Bean predicts that 9 commanders graduated. Then again, I'm a math person. I notice these things.

Glad I'm not the only person who cries when they read Ender's Shadow. It gets worse every time. I made the mistake of finishing that book during silent reading time at school, and several of my students caught me tearing up at the reunion scene at the end.

vineyarddawg

You've convinced me. Next reading, I'm going to read in publication order, specifically looking at how the perspectives and style evolve.

Good point on the bugger/formic terminology. I hadn't thought of that. Which characters are you talking about there? And it is too bad they didn't use the term hormiga. Much cooler word. I'm just glad that for once the foreign language content was in a language I know.

Yes, the Demosthenes and Locke bit (one of my favorite parts of Ender's Game), does seem a bit weird today. If you haven't seen this, you should. In a future where people have used internet as their primary source of information their entire lives, blogs and forums and such would likely be seen very differently from our time. Even today, I could easily see comments on public policy debates evolve into a weekly column evolve into real influence. In fact, a smart news organization could find writing talent among the people posting comments on their articles online. I've read many articles where the most thoughtful analysis came in the comment section, especially on CNN.com which tends to deliver very dry articles with little or no analysis. And every election cycle, I hear people suggest that this or that columnist is so insightful and would be a much better candidate than the standard politicians. In any case, it wouldn't be the first time some online nonsense turned into a real-world phenomenon: Fifty Shades of Grey developed from a piece of Twilight fan-fiction into a franchise that has broken various sales records.

And yeah, kids make fart jokes. I just need to learn to deal with that.

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MathTeacherGuy
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Oh, my latest article, on Shadow of the Hegemon, got published today. I'm just going to edit the original post every Tuesday when the articles go live.
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millernumber1
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That's a very fair way of looking at something being essential or not. I wouldn't apply it across the board, because really, there was no "need" for Ender's Shadow, but it's one of my favorite books. Perhaps it does answer the question, "well, what about other kids and their experience," but so do the short stories about Han Tzu and Bonzo. But everyone's narrative needs are different. For example, you make the very good observation that Shadows in Flight doesn't seem that necessary, and definitely is more of a setup for Shadows Alive - and yet, I've wanted to know how Bean died since Anton's Key was introduced in Ender's Shadow - so in that sense, it was extremely satisfying to me.

The wicked witch bits of Polish Boy do seem a bit pat - but it also helps make the sense that Ender's birth wasn't an accident stronger (same with Teacher's Pest, really). But you're right, people don't need to track them down (though I would adore an Ender's World anthology of all of them eventually). Things like Ender's Stocking really enhance my enjoyment of the characters, though.

Those are quite well spotted inconsistencies! I'd not really noticed them before, but you're right, they definitely seem to be a bit inconsistent. But you are also right that they don't materially affect the flow of the story, so I don't mind that much.

The Fantasy Game is a very odd part of the story - I appreciate it a lot more when Card makes it important for Jane's story (in both the sequels and the Shadow series).

I'm not a counter, so I hadn't noticed the numbers problems in Ender's Shadow. Well spotted!

Ender's Shadow is just so powerful - the final battle, and then the reunion at the end get me more every time.

"Hegemon" article: I like the enthusiasm you have for the world and ideas, even while you rightly point out some of the structural issues. I'm curious about the Speaker references - it's been a while since I've read Hegemon, but I don't recall any of those in that particular book, and would love to hear about them!

The slang issue is a valid concern, though I would view it more as similar to the character of Virlomi. Yes, they don't appear in the original, but it's not a problem per se to have retconned elements that widen the scope of the original. We don't hear every conversation in Ender's Game, so of course they might have used slang that we don't recognize. Plus, having everyone just use slang that was used in the original seems a bit slavish.

I think you're right that Hegemon would make the best sequel, though Ender in Exile will probably be the one they go to (since it has Ender in it). The sequels really don't have a good hook for Hollywood to think about.

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MathTeacherGuy
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I agree that Ender's Shadow itself didn't feel incredibly necessary. However, I view it as a crucial part of the Shadow series, which I do view as very necessary. And it is enjoyable to learn more about the other characters. I'd personally love to see more of Crazy Tom, Dumper, or Dink, either pre- or post-Battle School (those are all characters who I wonder how they ended up in Battle School). And an anthology with all of the short stories would be awesome.

Speaker references: when Bean is decoding Petra's message, he focuses on all possible four characters in a 1221 pattern. Carlotta walks over when he's working on possible words with 'iggi', and the word he's looking at is "piggies". When I first noticed that that might be a reference to Speaker for the Dead, I didn't think much of it. After all, there can't be too many words that have an 'iggi' in them. However, in the pre-chapter forum discussion for chapter 14, someone suggests that they really should choose Locke as Hegemon, saying "What does it matter if he's a teenager, an embryo, or a talking pig?" One reference to pigs could be a coincidence, two felt like a bit much.

The problem with an Ender in Exile movie is that there just isn't enough action for Hollywood, other than the fight at the very end, and that fight makes no sense without the Shadow material. They could incorporate elements of it in a Shadow of the Hegemon movie, since it does spend some time talking about Ender never returning to Earth. Of course, all of this assumes that the first movie doesn't end with Ender discovering the cocoon. Once that happens, any movie taking place earlier in the chronology will just feel like a cash-in.

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millernumber1
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Now I'm worried that the next film, if there is one, will be an unholy mashup of the Shadow series and Ender in Exile. Ugh.
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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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I read Speaker for the Dead before Ender's Game, which puts me in the unique position of not having my expectations subverted while reading the series in order. I only chose to read Speaker because I saw a classmate reading it and it had a futuristic-looking cover (I was in 5th grade at the time). Speaker reeled me in with the mystery of the piggies and the Descolada and the characters of Ender and Jane, but what stayed with me was its approach to heavy philosophical issues and its commitment to empathy. It was a new way of thinking about things, and I came to realize how selfish and weak a person I had been. I looked to Ender as an example of empathy, patience, and responsibility, as he was portrayed in Speaker for the Dead, before I even read Ender's Game.

Of course, this put me in a very different position than most people when I did read Ender's Game. I knew all along that Ender would commit xenocide, so I saw the "twist" coming a bit before most people who read the books in chronological order. Most people who read Ender's Game more than once experience it in two ways: the first time, they read it as an adventure novel about an impossibly smart and determined protagonist who is put through trial after trial to defeat an alien enemy... until it's revealed that he had been fighting the aliens all along and that the victory he had won was actually a tragic xenocide. Reading it again, they come to appreciate the book in a very different way, knowing what's at stake and understanding the motivations of the adults.

Because I had read Speaker first, I had a different experience. Knowing the result of the war, I thought of the adults in the book as the "bad guys," since they were knowingly trying to destroy an alien race. I knew at the beginning that the fear of the Formics was actually a huge misunderstanding, so Graff and Mazer and Anderson and everyone who was manipulating and trying Ender was the villain of the book in my eyes. It was only after reading Ender's Shadow that I revisited the book and saw that the adults were not so evil; that Graff was a good person who believed he was doing the right thing, and that there simply wasn't a "right" solution to the humans' plight.

Because I never experienced Ender's Game as the action novel that many first-readers make it out to be, the series felt much more consistent to me, with its unwavering commitment to morality and empathy. I may have been deprived of the shock of the original novel's twist, but I didn't suffer from the change of pace and tone between Ender's Game and its sequels.

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tertiaryadjunct
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quote:
Originally posted by MathTeacherGuy:
Yes, the Demosthenes and Locke bit (one of my favorite parts of Ender's Game), does seem a bit weird today. If you haven't seen this, you should. In a future where people have used internet as their primary source of information their entire lives, blogs and forums and such would likely be seen very differently from our time. Even today, I could easily see comments on public policy debates evolve into a weekly column evolve into real influence. In fact, a smart news organization could find writing talent among the people posting comments on their articles online.

Funny enough, that XKCD references 538. Which is a perfect example:
quote:

In 2007, writing under the pseudonym "Poblano", Silver began to publish analyses and predictions related to the 2008 United States presidential election. At first this work appeared on the political blog Daily Kos, but in March 2008 Silver established his own website, FiveThirtyEight.com. By summer of that year, after he revealed his identity to his readers, he began to appear as an electoral and political analyst in national print, online, and cable news media.

The accuracy of his November 2008 presidential election predictionsóhe correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 statesówon Silver further attention and commendation. The only state he missed was Indiana, which went for Barack Obama by one percentage point. He correctly predicted the winner of all 35 U.S. Senate races that year.

In April 2009, he was named one of The World's 100 Most Influential People by Time.

In 2010, Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog was licensed for publication by The New York Times.

See also Matt Drudge and Markos Moulitsas (of the aforementioned Daily Kos) who have a good deal of political sway solely due to the popularity of the websites they created (and the insider connections that have grown out of them).

The only difficulty would be video interviews - but if you imagine a future where the crap that is TV news media has died out (in favor of what is probably even worse: people gravitating to news blogs that only report and reinforce their preferred political bent), that may be less of a concern. Especially if they both played up a "we have to remain anonymous or our enemies will silence us" angle.

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MathTeacherGuy
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New article went up on Tuesday. Edited original post accordingly. I meant to do this earlier, but real life has once again gotten in the way of my stalking the nets.

C-3PO

I've never met anyone who read Speaker before Ender's Game. Very interesting perspective. Although the technology does not yet exist to selectively remove memories, I need to add that thought experiment to my to-do list: read Ender's Game while actively thinking that the war is wrong because the Formics don't intend another invasion.

It's amazing how much your first experience with any media can color future experiences. In writing these articles, I'm shocked at how much prejudice I still have against Xenocide in particular. At the same time, because I read Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant for the first time all in one week, to this day I go into those three books expecting to be captivated all over again. Just now, I looked at my notes on reading, and it looks like the longest I've ever taken to read those three books is eight days. And that reading only took so long because I only brought two of the three to a family reunion. Another new goal: read at a slower pace.

tertiaryadjunct

I did not catch the 538 reference; I was unaware of how Nate Silver became so well-known. Anyway, glad to see I'm not the only one who finds the Locke principle plausible.

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millernumber1
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Nice review! I agree that oftentimes Card has his characters do stupid things - but I think especially in a series like the Shadow books, he's deliberately attempting to deal with characters on the same level as Robert E. Lee or Winston Churchill - who were clearly some of the smartest people in the world, but also made incredibly stupid moves.

Plus, people like to criticize Card for making his characters so smart and figure everything out, so I think it's important that his smart characters make big mistakes and deliberately stupid moves.

I'm quite curious to see where you go once you hit the Speaker books and Exile/Flight.

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MathTeacherGuy
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Wow, that was a long forum outage...

Yeah, Shadow Puppets is probably my favorite of the Shadow series, but I always just cringe when Peter brings Achilles into the Hegemony compound. It fits his character so well and is such an important event, but it still just pisses me off. Especially knowing how much it ends up affecting Petra and Bean long-term.

I already wrote my Shadows in Flight review, which took longer than expected. All of the other books so far, I first read more than 5 years ago, so it just felt weird trying to evaluate something so new in my mind. Currently reading Ender in Exile, and I have no idea how that review will turn out. Definitely looking forward to Speaker for the Dead. I'm probably even more curious how that review will turn out.

Edit: Shadow of the Giant review is up. Linked in original post.

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millernumber1
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It was! I missed all the talking (well, not all the OSC bashing, but you know, it kinda comes with the territory these days).

I'm very excited about Shadows in Flight review! I quite liked it, even though it's definitely a less weighty book in many respects. And, of course, I can't wait for you to get to my favorite of the Speaker books, Children of the Mind.

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MathTeacherGuy
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Love the bashing, even when I disagree. It's healthy for a community to be willing to reflect. Unfortunately, I joined the forum well past the point where my thoughts might have fit the current argument and I hate jumping into a conversation midstream to discuss months-old points. Several of the best on-line communities I've participated in have had a love-hate relationship with the creator of the media we joined to discuss.

I also enjoyed Shadows in Flight. This reading, I picked up on several themes and plot devices I hadn't previously noticed. (Sorry if I spoiled the review.)

Children of the Mind? The first thing tht always comes to mind is that I dislike the chapter titles and the pre-chapter excerpts from Qing-Jao's book of sayings. But those are mostly mechanical complaints; I still enjoy the actual writing a lot and I definitely look forward to reading it again. That's still a ways away, though. I finished reading Ender in Exile and wrote my review yesterday, but with school starting tomorrow and various other obligations, I will not have the time I used to to read. At least I'm a few weeks ahead on reviews, and next weekend has three days.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
but I always just cringe when Peter brings Achilles into the Hegemony compound. It fits his character so well and is such an important event,
Could you explain to me why Peter brought Achilles in? He supposedly had a plan, but I never could see one. What was he trying to accomplish and how was he trying to do this?
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MathTeacherGuy
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Peter states that his intent is to observe how Achilles does what he does, and also to try to take over his network. We do read in Shadow of the Giant that Peter's people have been able to use Suriyawong's access to co-opt, subvert, or destroy most of Achilles' network, so clearly Peter accomplished most of his goal in the end. Had Achilles just been killed, he would not have accessed his network on Hegemony computers and Peter would likely have had a far more difficult task dismantling it all.

That seems to be how Peter officially views things, anyway. In trying to psycho-analyze his character, though, I feel like Peter brought Achilles into the compound partly to try to prove his superiority to Bean, Petra, and the others who seemed so afraid of Achilles in Shadow of the Hegemon. Part of it may also be trying to prove that he can control any situation. And his fantastic ego probably has something to do with it.

And from a narrative purpose, it accomplishes the goal of humbling Peter and changing his character to one who is more willing to listen to and work with others.

At least, that's my take on it all.

Oh, my Shadows in Flight review just went up. Edit: Technically it was posted a day ago, so the "just" there makes little sense. Link is in the first post.

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millernumber1
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It's certainly not essential...yet (I'm hoping the Bugger revelations become so in Shadows Alive, since they're definitely hints of that in Children of the Mind).

However, for me, since Bean is one of my absolute favorite characters, not just of the Ender series, but of all time, it's more than essential - it's beautiful, a fitting last adventure for a character who deserves so much.

Nice review!

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GinetteB
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quote:
Could you explain to me why Peter brought Achilles in? He supposedly had a plan, but I never could see one. What was he trying to accomplish and how was he trying to do this?
Hi [Smile] I am just reading this right now, and have the same question. The plan was to get to know Achilles' network; but what next, is also unclear to me...trying to use and confuse it maybe? Cutting away his support? Studying how Achilles maintains such a network, how he binds people to him? I think, it's this last one. (It could be jealousy/admiration that makes Peter want to study Achilles)
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MathTeacherGuy
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Yeah, part of the problem here is that we don't see as much from Peter's perspective in Shadow Puppets. Only a few places let us see directly how Peter feels about it and nothing he does with Achilles in this book accomplishes anything, while we read much more with other characters complaining about Peter's decision-making. I'm glad to hear how other people see this part, because it's always bugged me as well.
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MathTeacherGuy
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Exile review is up.

Working on my review for Speaker. I'm thinking of writing two articles. One would detail my first experience reading it, when I was a kid and wanted a story about space and aliens and action, and the other would go through my thoughts and experiences reading it since. This most recent reading was a very profound experience for me, and part of me wants to write about that in particular. We'll see what my editor thinks about it.

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millernumber1
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Whatever happens, I will be excited to read it (will hopefully get to Exile review soon). If your editor doesn't go for it, maybe post the drafts here? [Smile]
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millernumber1
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Excellent discussion of Exile! It is perhaps one of the most strange books in the series (yes, including Children of the Mind). It goes all over the place in genre and tone, and as you say, there's just so much stuffed in there, both thematically and stylistically. I think your coverage was very fair, and tallies nicely with many of my own thoughts. The issue of Peter's death and actions around the writing of The Hegemon are definitely a continuity issue - I've not yet decided which version I like better - Ender's Game, Shadow of the Giant, or Ender in Exile.

I quite like this series, and hope it continues!

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MathTeacherGuy
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New article is up! My editor approved my plan for a two-parter for Speaker. This week's article is mostly about my first time reading it. Link in original post.

millernumber1

Thanks! I've enjoyed writing these articles and I'm not sure what I'll do next when I run out of stuff to review. Gotta find some sort of project...

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millernumber1
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Really nicely done review! I was, I think, a tad older when I read Speaker, so I think I was slightly more ready. I like the way you describe your reactions and connections to the book - very well observed - then take a step back and talk about the positions of reading (age, experience). Great move! I can't wait for the part 2!
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MathTeacherGuy
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Thanks! I'd been worried about that article for a while, and have been very happy with the positive feedback.

Yeah, I can't wait for part 2 either. Sometime this weekend I plan to hash it out. I want to write about my last three readings of Speaker, but each has been a very personal experience and I'm debating how open I want to be. Either way, I'm looking forward to it. Speaker is my favorite book in the series, so I've been fairly stoked to write about it for a while now.

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MathTeacherGuy
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New article up. Favorite one by a good bit.
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millernumber1
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Amazing piece! I love how your reviews are showing not just why I love the Ender books, but love literature in general. Like you, I became a teacher because I want to make the world, and people's lives, just a bit better if I can - and so your experience reading through Speaker while struggling through doing just that is very powerful for me.

My favorite character in the Ender books is Bean. But my mother's is Ender, and whenever I read Speaker, Xenocide, or Children of the Mind, I remember just why. Ender, though certainly not perfect, is a kind man, a man with so much love that he could marry Novinha and try to make her whole again, that the most powerful thing in a book of powerful things (Xenocide) for me was reading that the gentlest young man from that broken family loved calling Ender "Papa."

Ender is truly a treasure, and I love that your review captured that so well.

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MathTeacherGuy
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Thanks again for the positive reinforcement. I felt very nervous about changing formats so much in my Speaker reviews, but it seems like people have enjoyed it. Special thanks to my editor, who helped out a lot with making it flow better.

Xenocide took me forever to read this time, what with school being in session and not having enough free-time, so my review for that won't be out till next Tuesday. Just finished my first draft, and hopefully pushing things back a week will make it possible for me to stay on track for Children of the Mind the following week. After that, I'm not sure whether to do A War of Gifts and the short stories, or Earth Unaware and Earth Afire. Part of me suspects that I'll go with the former just for the sake of having shorter stuff to read.

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millernumber1
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Well, I adore the short fiction. Though my favorite piece, the comic by Jake Black - Recruiting Valentine - is likely not on your list [Frown] . Oh, well. Will you do the full "Ender's Stocking" story from IGMS, or just the fragment in War of Gifts?
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MathTeacherGuy
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I actually plan to review the comics at some point. Right now, I only have the Formic Wars comics, but I'm hoping to pick up the compilation that includes Recruiting Valentine by the end of the year. And since you mention that the IGMS version of "Ender's Stocking" has more content, I'll have to check that out for sure. I think I'll start by reviewing A War of Gifts, then the stories in First Meetings, then the short stories in IGMS. Do you know if any of the stories that ended up in Ender in Exile have much additional content not included in that book? I think I heard something about that somewhere.

Also, my Xenocide review is up.

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millernumber1
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The Ender in Exile stories I do not think have any additional content. Except for the illustrations. But it's been a while since I read them.

I shall have to check out the Xenocide review!

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millernumber1
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Read it! I agree - Xenocide is a strange, strange book. There are a lot of things that I would question or do differently - and yet, there are so many amazing things. Olhado's relationship with Ender, Miro's journey, the wonderful bizarre sheer boldness of Outside, and the excruciating but beautiful story of Gloriously Bright - it's worth it. And even though it's the longest and structurally probably one of the weakest (Ender in Exile might be slightly messier), I never got bored.

The beginning reminds me of the beginning of The Two Towers - you're really invested in Ender's story (or Frodo's story), and Card (or Tolkien) keeps talking about Qing Jao (or Aragorn). For hundreds of pages. But when you finally get to that character, you miss the new ones. I think it's worthwhile, though not something I'd want in every novel, or even most of them.

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MathTeacherGuy
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There are a lot of things I wanted to mention in my review, but I didn't want to get too heavy into the plot. Olhado is one of my favorite characters and I love his role in Xenocide, but I couldn't find a good way to give him much of a nod without (in my opinion) spoiling things. I also planned for a while to make a joke about how I get annoyed by any character whose name begins with a "Q", but this last reading I didn't get nearly as bugged by Quara or Qing-Jao and I've long since started to enjoy Quim as a strong character.

Great comparison to The Two Towers! It's been forever since I read that trilogy, but I do remember getting really frustrated with the first half of the book where you don't see anything about Frodo and Sam.

And new article is up. You mentioned that Children of the Mind is your favorite, so I hope you don't find my review offensive. I really do love the book, but some of the structural stuff really bugs me a lot.

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millernumber1
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No worries. I actually share many of your reservations - the feeling that it's really the last third of Xenocide, the quotes, and chapter titles. On the one hand, I appreciate the quotes from Gloriously Bright, since she vanishes after Xenocide, and it's nice to see what happened to her afterward. I've not done a really careful reading to see if there's any kind of resonance between the quotes and the chapters, but I'm assuming there is one. However, I agree that OSC probably could have made the connections much clearer. I honestly don't really read the chapter titles, though, so it's never really bothered me.

I also like the strengths you point out - the driving pace of the book, the dialogue and relationships, and of course, the ideas. But for me, the relationships are what make it my favorite, despite all the flaws.

What's next in this series?

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MathTeacherGuy
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Awesome that for once my topic wasn't in the top 5 when I bumped for my latest article. Great to see more activity in the forum.

My article on A War of Gifts went live at some point today. Next week, I plan to review a bunch of the short stories. Not sure how many I'll get through by then, but I'll at least finish the ones in First Meetings.

Beyond finishing the short stories, I plan to write a review of the movie when it comes out, as well as an article summing up my thoughts after finishing the series. I may do some reviews of the comic books, but that depends on if I can afford to purchase a few more (right now I only have the Formic Wars ones). I'll be reviewing the prequels after Earth Awakens comes out.

And after that? Still not entirely sure. Writing about the Ender series has made me think about rereading other books from my youth. I may do a series with that premise, using both books that I loved and books that I hated to see how my opinions have changed over time. The other idea I had is to review books that are popular among my students. While it's easy to say that lots of modern youth literature is trash, that doesn't change that these books manage to find a market.

I may also post excerpts from a book I'm writing, but that would be a good distance off, and I'm looking for more of a collaborative community to share with first.

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millernumber1
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Well, all of those sound like very interesting projects! Will come back with thoughts on War of Gifts posts later!
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millernumber1
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War of Gifts review - it is very enjoyable, and there is a slightly ephemeral quality to it (that I also find a bit of in Ender in Exile) - writing between major story points tends to leave that impression.

As for the flattened morality - I think that's kind of inescapable in short fiction. Unless you want to be "Lady and the Tiger"ish (which I loathe), there's just less room to raise questions and find a way to provide a payoff that is still satisfying without answering them.

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MathTeacherGuy
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Yep, short fiction definitely has differences in how it can do what it does. That was also my experience with reading the stories in First Meetings again: very enjoyable, but less depth.

Edit: The review for First Meetings went up today.

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millernumber1
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Glad you enjoyed them! I hope someday to have an anthology of all the Ender stories - there are an awful lot of them by now. I think "Teacher's Pest" is my favorite, mostly because I like love stories. I don't know if I dislike JP in Polish Boy - but it's probably my least favorite of the shorts in this collection. Investment Counselor is a strange one for me - it was perhaps the story I was most excited about (I actually hunted it down in Robert Silverberg's anthology "Legends" before it was released in First Meetings) because Jane is my favorite character from the Speaker series. However, as this is a, well, First Meeting [Smile] , I was a bit frustrated by how limited Jane was in revealing herself. While I get that she's terrified of being destroyed, as we see when she meets Valentine in Xenocide (and rightly so, as we see in Children of the Mind), it still doesn't quite meet the level of anticipation I'd built. That being said, it's still quite a fascinating story, with Ender's struggle to find his life's work providing a satisfying conclusion - if I'd known that was what the story was really about. But sadly, it was marketed as the "Ender meets Jane" story, and it didn't quite work for me on that level. But that's pretty much a personal problem, I think.
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MathTeacherGuy
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I agree with you about "The Investment Counselor". Ender becoming a Speaker is more interesting and satisfying in my opinion. Part of what bothered me is the reference in another book to how Jane revealed herself to Ender, and by the time he arrived at the next planet, he was wearing his implant. The meeting we see in "The Investment Counselor" just doesn't match up with how I expected things to happen.

In regards to John Paul, I do like seeing in him some of Peter's ambition and Valentine's understanding. Both of those are evident in both stories. Unfortunately, I didn't think of that comparison until after submitting my final article, and once I start revising, it just doesn't stop.

I already started reading "Mazer In Prison", and am enjoying it just as much as I'd hoped. Hopefully I'll be able to fit in "Cheater", "Pretty Boy", and "Ender's Stocking" by next Monday. I've not read the full version of "Ender's Stocking" before, so that's what I'm looking forward to most.

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millernumber1
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Mazer in Prison is probably my favorite of the short stories from IGMS (and possibly all the EG stories). But Ender's Stocking is really cool as well!
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MathTeacherGuy
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Thanks for the suggestion on "Ender's Stocking". Absolutely loved it, which makes me all the angrier about the pointless portions of it sandwiched into A War of Gifts. And new review is up.
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vineyarddawg
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I've been keeping track of these reviews as you've been updating them, MTG, and I have to say I think you've done very good work! I don't always agree with your opinions, but hey, where does it say that we have to all agree with one another? [Smile]
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millernumber1
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I completely agree about "Pretty Boy" and "Cheater." They are nice character pieces, but they weren't really necessary - though it was nice to see "Cheater" referenced in Ender in Exile. I kind of wish OSC had worked some of "Pretty Boy" into Ender's Game Alive, but as far as I can tell, Bonzo's backstory didn't really get any more attention there.

Mazer in Prison is very moving - especially now that we're starting to see the other side of his life (pre-Formic Wars). Additionally, it's perhaps one of the few prequels that doesn't feel so crippled by trying to make everything fit, and not too long so it doesn't wear out its welcome.

Ender's Stocking is really great in how it sets up Peter's growth in the Shadow series. I think you're completely right that it gives a point of decision, an important moment in his growth that wasn't covered in other books or narratives, without contradicting too much (though I'm not sure how it fits into his Locke and Demosthenes plan). I kind of wish we'd gotten more novels or stories from Peter's perspective, since the Shadow series was really Bean and Petra's story.

Gold Bug does have some differences - and the comic version is also fun (but a bit hard to find now, I think).

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MathTeacherGuy
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Good point about "Mazer in Prison" not needing to fit in as much. Yeah, I checked out "Gold Bug" and saw that the beginning of it was new to me. One of these days, I'll have the money and buy some more of the hard-cover comic compilations. Someday...

New article, about the movie. Surprised we don't have a topic here about that yet.

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millernumber1
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Nice review! I'm hoping to go see it again, even though I think I was a bit less accepting of the film's choices than you. I think my biggest agreement is that the film doesn't make very many moments that make it impossible for me to imagine that the book is happening between cuts. [Smile]
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MathTeacherGuy
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Well put, about the idea that the rest of the book could be happening in intervening moments.

I wrote this fairly late, and was unsure of the quality. Glad people seem to have enjoyed it.

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