Was this book necessary?
On one hand, the ending to Ender’s Game was rather rushed. After a rather in depth plot, the ending that spanned several years in a few chapters was a little unsatisfying.
However, Ender in Exile has an ending that is equally rushed and unsatisfying. The Ganges/Achilles arc could have been much longer, because Achilles (Jr) is a much more interesting character than Alessandra and her mother, and definitely a better antagonist than Colonel Morgan.
Speaking of which, Ender’s Game had the antagonist by society, the struggle really being about the morals of war. It’s a poignant question, one you don’t often see in adventure or sci-fi stories. Ender in Exile has the antagonist embodied in people, and frankly, the selected antagonists are dry. Colonel Morgan is a man greedy for power, Dorabella is a controlling mother figure who wants to avoid parenting in her mother’s style and epically fails, and Achilles/Randall/ Arkanian is victim to circumstance and misunderstanding. Not to mention, Morgan is built up as the main antagonist, but he obviously doesn’t have the skills to be a governor. If Morgan was supposed to be a serious threat, he should have been a better leader. Yes, Ender is still battling with his guilt, but that’s put to the side.
Which leads me to the next point. Ender’s Game focused very much on Ender’s point of view, his strategy, and his inner struggle. As readers we got to follow his thought process, his dilemmas, his angst. He was a character that, even if you couldn’t identify with him, you really knew what he was about, because you understood how he thought and reacted to different situations.
Ender in Exile rarely dips into Ender’s mindset. Well, “rarely” may be a strong word, but compared to Ender’s Game, it’s definitely reduced. I like to compare the scene in Ender’s Game where Ender battles Bonzo’s Salamander Army and in Ender in Exile when Ender lands on Shakespeare Colony. In the battle against Bonzo, while we don’t know how he’s going to deal with the problem of the enemy surrounding the gate, we watch his plan form and be executed. On the landing on Shakespeare Colony, everything comes from Morgan’s point of view, which frankly makes what was supposed to be a “surprise” is really a cliche.
This leads to the strangest pro/con of Ender in Exile: several points of view. Because Ender’s Game is mostly in Ender and Valentine’s point of view, it’s limited in information. However, Ender in Exile allows the reader to understand not only Ender and Valentine, but even Hyrum Graff, Colonel Morgan, Peter, Petra, Mr. and Mrs. Wiggin, Sel Menach and Alessandra. I’ve already blogged about MCD (Multiple Character Disorder) when I read Chaucer but I’m not sure if Ender in Exile suffers from it or not.
I might think differently if I read the other books, and therefore learned more about Bean, Petra, and Peter, but for the most part I enjoy learning about the other characters in this book. My problem is that the main leads lose their spunk. Ender, as stated above, is down played a lot, meanwhile Valentine is down-charactered. She becomes a lost elder sister, rather than the intuitive young woman she was in Ender’s Game. Even Peter and Graff sounded sappy at times.
And as I mentioned above, Dorabella, Achilles, and Morgan are all cliche, and Alessandra’s point of view was very much just a love sick teenager.
So the big question is: Does Ender in Exile serve its purpose?
Yes and no.
Ender in Exile was meant to expand on the rushed ending of Ender’s Game, and it did, but it expanded on the wrong part. Initially, it’s exciting to see characters you didn’t see before and situations you didn’t read before, but if they don’t add to the main arc, why include them? Alessandra could have been a great narrative on the experience of colonization. The golden bugs was almost pointless, and the discovery could easily have been put together with Ender’s of the formic egg. Achilles would definitely have been a better antagonist, with the intelligence of his father (that everyone conveniently states rivals/exceeds Ender’s). Expansion on the colonies and not the voyage there would have made a much better book.
So was Ender in Exile necessary?
It could have been.
“You always give the greatest man the smallest denomination.”
– (Sel Menach) Orson Scott Card, Ender in Exile