Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Children of the Mind (Ender's Saga #4) by Orson Scott Card

Rating: 3/5

Do yourself a favour and don't read the afterword, at least not right away. You can come back to it later if you're really curious, but to me it had the effect of seeming like Card was trying to steal Ender's show. I know that's weird because he created Ender, but the story that has now lasted four books is about these characters you've come to know and have feelings about, and when it's over you're immediately hit in the face with a bunch of rambling thoughts that is essentially Card screaming "Me! Me! Me!" He can't just let the story be, he has to tell you some of his opinions. It's a personal blog-like essay that has no place at the end of this book.

I found Children of The Mind easier to read than Xenocide, though I can't quite articulate why. However, the ease of reading doesn't mean I thought it was better. There were quite a few things that stretched my credulity, and the ending seemed a little too happily-ever-after to feel like a consistent conclusion. I never thought I'd see a science fiction author follow in Jane Austen's footsteps by ending with a double wedding. It's so trite, especially since both couples, despite being comprised of ambitious, career-minded people, decided immediately upon realising they were in love, that the most important thing in the universe was to get married and have babies ASAP. It seemed like a rare instance of the author imposing his own values on characters that otherwise wouldn't share them. At least, the characters as I've come to understand them. Others may have a different interpretation.

In my opinion, there was something in the first two books of this series that's missing in books three and four. They don't seem to have the same integrity. They felt less planned out in detail, less pointed in message. The same kinds of philosophical and moral issues are discussed, but there is some repetition, and they don't seem to be as focused. Later books in series tend to be looser like this, and you often get the impression that the author might have been hurried, tired of his subjects, slightly lacking in inspiration and/or less motivated to really tighten up the story. It's not a huge decline in this series, but it was noticeable to me.
The characters in this series are complex, individual, and memorable. A lot of them are highly emotional and volatile, and I wouldn't want to know them, but they are interesting to read about. It's frightening to think of the fate of entire sentient species being in the hands of such a terribly dysfunctional family. If they were real, they'd qualify for their own reality show. Yet Card has a good understanding of psychology and is able to make each character's thoughts and motivations unique and, if not exactly relatable, then comprehensible. His ability to show such a wide variety of perspectives is remarkable. Though not consistently engrossing, this story did draw me in for large pockets of time.

Ender's Saga Reviews:

Ender's Game (#1)
Speaker for the Dead (#2)
Xenocide (#3)
Children of the Mind (#4)

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