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Author Topic: Getting Started with Orson Scott Card
PromoGuy
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I did my best to search the forums, but I didn't see anything on the results that had suggestions for a OSC newbie.

I've heard about the Ender's books for some time but, I am not sure where to start with that.

Or even if those would be the best work to dive in with, for a 1st time Orson Scott Card reader.

I've got time to kill on a flight plus a week-long convention in Vegas, so a book or two to start me off would be great.

If such a guide exists, please pardon the post. If not, would anyone care to offer some suggestions?

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Tresopax
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Start with Ender's Game.
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katharina
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Ender's Game
Speaker for the Dead
Xenocide

Ender's Shadow

Enchantment
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

Those are essential. If you liked the above, try:
The Memory of Earth and its sequels
-or-
The Seventh Son and its sequels

If you liked those, you can find what's next. [Smile]

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MEC
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When I first read this thread title, I thought it said "Getting stranded with Orson Scott Card".

Anyway, I really enjoyed "Treason", or maybe "A Planet Called Treason", they're the same story, just one's longer.

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Epictetus
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I really like Enchantment, a good, stand-alone book. But if you're not feeling the fantasy vibe, you can never go wrong with Ender's Game or Ender's Shadow (which I actually like more.)
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scifibum
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I think katharina is right - start with the original Ender trilogy.

But if you stall on those (inconceivable!) and need to see if you like anything else by Card, I recommend the Alvin books. Starting with Seventh Son.

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Shanna
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Ender's Game and the Ender sequels

Enchantment
Lost Boys

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Farmgirl
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If you go to the OSC Library link at the very top of this page, it can show you the order of books in the different series, too.
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Synesthesia
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I started with the Seventh Son.
Start with that. It shaped my paradigm, though I am not sure if OSC would care for the shape of my pear tree.

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ladyday
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I got sucked into Card reading his short fiction, particularly Monkey Sonatas.

But yeah, EG is a good place to start.

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Telperion the Silver
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Highly recommend "Songmaster", my favorite OSC book outside of the Ender series.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by ladyday:
I got sucked into Card reading his short fiction, particularly Monkey Sonatas.

Me too. Although I started with the now out of print collection Unaccompanied Sonata.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Telperion the Silver:
Highly recommend "Songmaster", my favorite OSC book outside of the Ender series.

Ditto.
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Sachiko
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Pastwatch!
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EmpSquared
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Aside from Ender, I would say Hot Sleep/Worthing Chronicle/Worthing Saga. Of course, I read that a long time ago when I was younger and hadn't even heard of Foundation yet.
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PromoGuy
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This is great, you are all so wonderful to help!

I'd only seen a few replies before I went to the library so I was disappointed that all of the Ender's books were checked out.

I wound up with Treasure Box and Alvin Journeyman. Of course, I now know AJ is a sequel, so I will not read that one. So far, Treasure Box is great (though I'm going in blind on this one, didn't read the dust jacket).

But I will be ordering several you've suggested to be sent to my library.

So please keep posting recommendations, it is so helpful!

Hopefully I can get them sent before I leave on 6/16.

What a great community this is!

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by MEC:
When I first read this thread title, I thought it said "Getting stranded with Orson Scott Card".

We would kill each other. [Angst]
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Sterling
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It would be interesting to start with the Shadow series and then read _Ender's Game_; I don't know what I'd think about it.

I *like* the Shadow books well enough, but I don't really feel like they fit in with the characters envisioned in Ender's Game all that well- in part because I feel like Ender is supposed to have been a genius, and if the events of Shadow occurred behind his back, he was singularly inperceptive.

So, um, yeah... Start with EG, go to Shadow or Seventh Son if so moved (you might want to skip Heartfire in my opinion [Wink] ); he's also done a ton of great short stories.

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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by MEC:
When I first read this thread title, I thought it said "Getting stranded with Orson Scott Card".

We would kill each other. [Angst]
Come now, I think you're being too hard on yourself.

I bet you could take him. [Big Grin]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:

I *like* the Shadow books well enough, but I don't really feel like they fit in with the characters envisioned in Ender's Game all that well- in part because I feel like Ender is supposed to have been a genius, and if the events of Shadow occurred behind his back, he was singularly inperceptive.

The magic touch that made EG great was completely squandered in the Shadow Series. They are good books, but they are inferior as fiction. I blame the constant moralizing that is present in all of Cards works in the last decade or so, but really the naivete of perspective in Ender's Game that made it so brilliant is reversed in the Shadow books. In EG, the childlike perspective makes the workings of the larger world seem fantastic and plausible. In Shadow, the perspective is "highly informed" if you will, and the actual world that is constructed for characters to look at is about as flat as a pancake. It tries for all the world to be dynamic and fascinating, succeeding in moments, but fails on that point alone. The characters are just too smart- and the world is just too dumb.
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jeeshkid
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I would suggest reading Treason. It is a great book, one of my favorites.
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Lisa
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What ever happened to Treason, btw? Is anyone here in touch with her?
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Nick
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I'll agree with Telp and rivka, Songmaster is a great book to start with.

Then Ender's Game, though Seventh Son and Red Prophet are both amazing books that kick off the Alvin series. [Smile]

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AvidReader
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quote:
The characters are just too smart- and the world is just too dumb.
That was actually why the Shadow series worked for me. What do the average folks running things do with the most brilliant and highly trained military minds in the world? Get out of their way.

The unbelievable part for me was how fast everything moved. I'm not sure countries and armies could get going that fast.

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Scott R
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quote:
In EG, the childlike perspective makes the workings of the larger world seem fantastic and plausible.
I feel like maybe you got a copy of some other dimension's Ender's Game.

What do you mean "childlike perspective," and can you show how it was used in the book?

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Orincoro
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Scott- sure I can. It starts I think with the treatment of Ender at the beginning of the book. His visit to the doctor, being treated as a child, and being watched secretly by Graff and Anderson, as they analyze his actions and decide his fate.

His analytical ability is definitely higher than the average child's, but his information base, his actual picture of the world is still childlike- he still sees adults and older kids, Peter for instance, as incomprehensibly motivated and chaotic- he doesn't rationalize according to, shall we say, "adult" interpretations of most situations. He is still brilliant, but his information set is limited, and so Peter is the w worst thing in the world to him, and his facing the consequences of his fight with Stilson seems like the worst thing he can imagine.

Then I think it's reflected in his view of the buggers, or maybe the overall picture that the novel gives us of the buggers, which is always limited only to what Ender can actually see. Again, though his analysis and insight are way above the level of a child, his limited experiences allow his impression of them to be colored by Graff, and of course the endgame scenario is one that could only be perpetrated against a child (this being the whole point of the novel).

I think we see Ender being very mature and intelligent, but frustrated also by his lack of experience, his lack of information and ways of getting a better, clearer picture of the world situation. In contrast with, say Bean's analysis and information gathering in Shadow, Ender seems somewhat naive, and impressionable for all his brilliance. His mentality is childlike even as it is powerful.

Does that kind of cover it? I could dig out the book and get into specific language, but I think you can see from the overall feel of the novel's language, the simplicity of construction and directness of Ender's thoughts, that he is eminently childlike, in awe of the complexity of the world, allowing much of the big picture to slide by unremarked or uncomprehended. This has the effect of making the world of Ender's Game feel, to me, much more complex and interesting for its lack of specific detail- the way Ender describes the vids of the first invasion, the way he accepts the stories he is told about it, and the way the thoughts of the hive queen come to him in the end, in such simplistic and open language that just hints at poetry without being overly prosaic.

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Godric 2.0
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PromoGuy - what convention will you be attending? I work across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
quote:
The characters are just too smart- and the world is just too dumb.
That was actually why the Shadow series worked for me. What do the average folks running things do with the most brilliant and highly trained military minds in the world? Get out of their way.

The unbelievable part for me was how fast everything moved. I'm not sure countries and armies could get going that fast.

This is where I find myself tiring of OSC's endless insistence on overly direct, overly simplified motivations for his peripheral characters. He spends a lot of time on his genius characters, and yet these people pay no mind to anyone but themselves, and ultimately they dismiss the entire working world of people around them as if these people have never known or accomplished anything. For all his barking about elitism and intellectuals and how stupid everyone is other than himself, OSC manages to glorify the same kind of dogmatic single mindedness and narrowness of interpretation that he claims to avoid. You constantly see this throughout the Ender and Shadow books, that his main characters adamantly refuse to be pigeon-holed, just as they all pigeon-hole pretty much every person and group of people they interact with.

Edit: this was, by the way, elevated to a stunning new level in Empire, which was why that novel was so breathtakingly obtuse.

But for all that Scott, lest you see that this is "all I do," I liked the Shadow books for other reasons than the characters. The situations detailed were often highly imaginative, and there were some very interesting observations of macroscopic societal interactions that I definitely learned from. I've read them each a couple of times.

Edit again: that said, I will no longer purchase products offered by OSC because of his politics, and my recent disappointments with his work. I will read the new Ender book only because he is giving me a free copy- and hopefully that experience may change my mind.

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the_Somalian
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Avoid his smarmy political commentary.
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scholarette
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I can't read the Ender books because of the science. OSC clearly has no understanding of how scientists works or think and his obvious lack of knowledge in the fields the characters work in frustrated me. I would be willing to read his fantasy still. Of course, I am 6 years into a phd program in genetics, so my view may not match up with most people's.
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pH
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quote:
Originally posted by PromoGuy:
This is great, you are all so wonderful to help!

I'd only seen a few replies before I went to the library so I was disappointed that all of the Ender's books were checked out.

I wound up with Treasure Box and Alvin Journeyman. Of course, I now know AJ is a sequel, so I will not read that one. So far, Treasure Box is great (though I'm going in blind on this one, didn't read the dust jacket).

But I will be ordering several you've suggested to be sent to my library.

So please keep posting recommendations, it is so helpful!

Hopefully I can get them sent before I leave on 6/16.

What a great community this is!

Treasure Box creeped me out. I liked it, but I was also annoyed by the portrayal of women and the attitudes towards love.

But it still creeped me out.

-pH

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I can't read the Ender books because of the science. OSC clearly has no understanding of how scientists works or think and his obvious lack of knowledge in the fields the characters work in frustrated me. I would be willing to read his fantasy still. Of course, I am 6 years into a phd program in genetics, so my view may not match up with most people's.

Can you give us some details here? I know the singular feeling of having OSC talk about my area of study, but what's it like for a real scientist?
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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I can't read the Ender books because of the science. OSC clearly has no understanding of how scientists works or think and his obvious lack of knowledge in the fields the characters work in frustrated me. I would be willing to read his fantasy still. Of course, I am 6 years into a phd program in genetics, so my view may not match up with most people's.

Yeah, I know my sister (doctorate in genetics) couldn't stand Speaker For The Dead because the pequenos-descolada enigma was obvious to her from very early on, and surely- surely- in an entire planet with some very gifted scientists, someone else would catch on... She had a point.
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scholarette
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In Ender's Shadow series, they mention that they don't have a way to sort the embryos that have the key turned from those that haven't and even as babies, they haven't figured out a test. This could be done using PCR, which has been around since early 80s. With a baby and so a lot of cells, you could use labelled oligos to determine the difference between those turned on and off (I don't know how old that technique is, but my boss has actually done it and he hasn't been in the lab since the 80s). Just trying to figure out how they don't have a test, but can create a mutant is perplexing.

With the Descolada stuff, it is more of a feeling. Scientists rarely work alone for one thing. Even with only one person allowed to live there, there would be tons of communications. DNA samples would be shipped to labs more capable of analyzing them. Since the virus is so lethal, I would expect a large push to understand it, so there should be a fully sequenced genome (little things sequence quickly too), lots of structural pics, crystalography of unique proteins, etc. Assuming some improvements of technology, I would expect with a fully sequenced genome for them to be able to produce proteins and so forth in off world labs, without access to the actual virus (small amounts of this can be done now- like for a 30aa protein, I would order it rather then try to purify it). The genome being sequenced could even be done on planet, just would take a lot of grunt work. But really, there should be communication with other labs at the least. But the whole thing felt like a very shallow investigation of the virus.

edit- also what Sterling said. That was a big part of the what a shallow job these researchers have done feeling.

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BlackBlade
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I hate the adage, "Ignorance is bliss," but the last few posts in this thread had obligated me to accept it in a limited sense.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Sterling:
Yeah, I know my sister (doctorate in genetics) couldn't stand Speaker For The Dead because the pequenos-descolada enigma was obvious to her from very early on, and surely- surely- in an entire planet with some very gifted scientists, someone else would catch on... She had a point.

Make that an intragalactic alliance of some 300 planets worth of gifted scientists, and no one catches on.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
I hate the adage, "Ignorance is bliss," but the last few posts in this thread had obligated me to accept it in a limited sense.

I think the distinction with OSC, and exception that people are taking with him is that he has progressively traversed into areas in which his experience does not serve him well. It's fine for a writer to know nothing and do very little research about a topic involved with the story -it's still a good story- but to involve technical terms for the sake of realism or immediacy, and to fail at that, is a flaw.

OSC is not one for "hard edge" science fiction anyway, and it shows when he actually includes science in his work. There are plenty of writers who do exhaustively detailed representations of governments, technology, etc. In order to do this, they have to tread very carefully, maintaining a certain level of detail to make the descriptions clear and interesting, but also withhold and "mystify" certain elements that aren't explicable according to modern science, but are necessary to the story. OSC sometimes does this well, as in Ender's Game, and sometimes does it less well, but he is nowhere near the level of really hard sci-fi, where meta-narratives about the human condition in the story are actually expressed through the descriptions of political or technological aspects. OSC deals with characters in terms of conflict and symbolism, whereas hard sci-fi leans toward constructionism- the exploration of human nature related to the institutions that reflect it... (Yay psuedo-sociological commentary on my part. [Cool] )

But anyway, if you start dealing with construction aspects of the society you are writing about, and you don't really appreciate the constructionist viewpoint, or don't find it helpful to the advancement of your story, then your treatment of the institutions involved in the narrative will probably be incompletely considered. Thus, OSC gets through his entire story about the personal conflicts of the people of Lusitania, and never seems to consider that there are Bajillions of scientists in his universe that are probably interested in the topic as well, and might actually be doing something about it. That's why it's such a weak plot point- because he's involving institutions in the story without really considering how those institutions might work... I know it sounds smarmy of me, but maybe this shares a common root with his obstreperous dismissals of academic culture in general. "Cooperative" and "progressive" are not words he ever uses to describe academics or scientists, and maybe that's reflected in his stories as well, as if personal conflicts and ego would really reign over a galaxy sized bureaucracy and grind it to a complete halt.

[ June 11, 2008, 06:23 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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T:man
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The problem is, you are not thinking about the 3000 year difference in technology. In the future not many care about anything outside their planet. There are maybe 3 or 4 xenobiologists per planet. In the future we know so much we don't need as many scientists. Also those few scientists that are xenobiologists have to work with entirely new plants and animals. Just because things are the way they are now doesnt mean our culture is the same.
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Scott R
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quote:
OSC gets through his entire story about the personal conflicts of the people of Lusitania, and never seems to consider that there are Bajillions of scientists in his universe that are probably interested in the topic as well, and might actually be doing something about it.
All right, we know that there were other scientists interested in the pequininos; there seems to be a wide knowledge of them, anyway. We also know that, thanks to the Xenocide, the human communities were crippled with worry about repeating their mistake with the Buggers (as long as Lusitania wasn't threatening, anyway).

Consensus/cooperative work-- yeah, Novinha wasn't exactly helpful there, was she? She locked down the files as soon as she was recognized as head xenobiologist. And it can be imagined that previous to Pipo's death, very little was discovered about the pequininos because of the strictures against xenocide.

You know, it occurs to me that we've got a very recent parallel example of the situation on Lusitania. An uncontacted tribe was spotted in the Amazon; already, efforts are underway to keep them uncontacted as much as we can. It's feasible to think that something similar was done on Lusitania with the pequeninos (albeit on a larger scale). Card points out how humans have restricted all their contact with the piggies in 'Speaker,' and how isolated the human community is on Lusitania.

quote:
as if personal conflicts and ego would really reign over a galaxy sized bureaucracy and grind it to a complete halt.
That's not what happened in the books following Ender's Game, of course. Certainly, the galactic bureaucracy didn't 'grind to a halt' because of Novinha's decision to lock down Pipo's discoveries.
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scholarette
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But getting genetic material is fairly easy. And sequencing is fairly easy. And once you have a sequence... Also, if you want to argue that maybe they don't use the normal 4 bases, neither does the species I study and we do just fine.
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Szymon
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Id say Enders Game. Its like pretty obvious to me.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
OSC gets through his entire story about the personal conflicts of the people of Lusitania, and never seems to consider that there are Bajillions of scientists in his universe that are probably interested in the topic as well, and might actually be doing something about it.
All right, we know that there were other scientists interested in the pequininos; there seems to be a wide knowledge of them, anyway. We also know that, thanks to the Xenocide, the human communities were crippled with worry about repeating their mistake with the Buggers (as long as Lusitania wasn't threatening, anyway).

My point was that OSC mentions this vast array of sciences on the 300 planets, and yet they contribute nothing of interest to the study of the virus for, what, 50 years?
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:


quote:
as if personal conflicts and ego would really reign over a galaxy sized bureaucracy and grind it to a complete halt.
That's not what happened in the books following Ender's Game, of course. Certainly, the galactic bureaucracy didn't 'grind to a halt' because of Novinha's decision to lock down Pipo's discoveries.
I'm referring to the lack of research regarding the virus, but also the congressional deadlock over the treatment of Libo when he violates the rules as a Xenedor. Then, the only way this interference is discovered is not through study, but by Jane leaving the evidence for a greedy glory seeking scientist to claim as his own.
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scholarette
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Watson and Crick published their study on the structure of DNA in 1953, 55 years ago. Think about the vast amounts of knowledge we have obtained since then. 50 years and a society with supposedly advanced technology has learned "piggies live in the forest. They like trees." Sorry, suspension of disbelief is gone.
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Xavier
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Treasure Box is perhaps the weakest of all OSC books. It's really unfortunate that you are starting with that. It starts out interestingly enough, but falls apart spectacularly.

I'd honestly suggest you stop reading it now and choose something else. By all means finish Treasure Box when you've already fallen in love with Ender's Game, Pastwatch, Treason, Hart's Hope, Songmaster, etc.

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pH
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quote:
Originally posted by Xavier:
Treasure Box is perhaps the weakest of all OSC books. It's really unfortunate that you are starting with that. It starts out interestingly enough, but falls apart spectacularly.

I'd honestly suggest you stop reading it now and choose something else. By all means finish Treasure Box when you've already fallen in love with Ender's Game, Pastwatch, Treason, Hart's Hope, Songmaster, etc.

I'm going to agree that Treasure Box does kind of disintegrate, although I still say that it's really creepy. But yeah, after a while you're left going ".....wait, what?" And not in the good Philip K. Dick way.

-pH

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PromoGuy
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Hey all! Thanks for keeping this thread going while I traveled.

I did finish Treasure Box, and I was quite shocked by the events that happened following the dinner (don't want to spoil anyone).

As I said, I'd read it with no awareness of what type of story it was, so the turn it took caught me off guard and took me through to the end.

I liked it, but all indications here are that his other work is much, much better.

So moving on, I also read Seventh Son not knowing what to expect. That took a lot more time for me to "get" but I am glad I stuck with it. I am looking forward to the rest.

I'd also checked out "Ender's Game" author's edition paperback, but had to return it unread since I had Seventh to finish. Ugh, why can't libraries let me keep books 3 or 4 months???

So now I am headed into "Treason" then hopefully Ender's and whatever comes after Seventh Son.

But I am honestly blown away by OSC and how well he crafts a story. Not to mention the sheer volume of work from which to choose!

Treason looks interesting, anyone think I should tackle something else instead?

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BlackBlade
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If you enjoyed Seventh Son you can safely jump into Red Prophet, it's like Seventh Son on awesome pills. Sequels should always be this good IMHO.

The character Anset was a sort of prototype for Ender in Ender's game so Songmaster should put you in good stead once you get into Ender's Game. But be warned it's a bit more graphic in terms of subject matter and violence.

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airmanfour
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I can't read the Ender books because of the science. OSC clearly has no understanding of how scientists works or think and his obvious lack of knowledge in the fields the characters work in frustrated me. I would be willing to read his fantasy still. Of course, I am 6 years into a phd program in genetics, so my view may not match up with most people's.

Can you give us some details here? I know the singular feeling of having OSC talk about my area of study, but what's it like for a real scientist?
Every time OSC wanders into government, the military, or national security it makes me want to shake the ignorance out of him with an over sized paint mixer.

And I'm not sure he can ever be forgiven for that whole "Selden" business.

To stay safe, I'd avoid any of his books written after 1997.

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JennaDean
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quote:
If you enjoyed Seventh Son you can safely jump into Red Prophet, it's like Seventh Son on awesome pills.
Be warned, though, when you start Red Prophet it seems to have nothing to do with Seventh Son at first. Different characters altogether. But it all comes together sooner or later....
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