Religion. Ethics. Metaphysics. Talking Computers. Sentient bugs. Pigs that turn into trees.
Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide has a lot going for it, a lot not going for it, and just a lot in it. It is one huge hodgepodge of a book…and I’m going to try an review it in less than a thousand words:
Picking up 30 years after Speaker for the Dead, Miro returns from orbit to find his family grown up and struggling with the descolada, a virus that plagues his home planet, Lusitania, which his xenobiologist mother and sisters are trying to keep under control. “Why not kill it with fire?” you ask? The native species on Lusitania, the pequeninos, need the descolada in order to reproduce, and so the colonizing humans have to learn to live with it.
Problem is religion. The colonist community is uniformly catholic and have started converting the pequeninos, who believe the descolada is the physical incarnation of the Holy Spirit that must be spread throughout the universe, instead of the DNA ripping virus that it truly is.
Meanwhile on the planet Path, a girl named Qing-Jao learns that she is godspoken, meaning the gods communicate to her by punishing her whenever she does or thinks something that the gods don’t want. She’s also super smart, so she’s help Congress find a missing fleet sent to Lusitania.
And to top it all off, a fleet of spaceships is heading towards Lusitania to blow it to bits.
Oh, and Ender and Valentine are there.
I don’t think I need to tell you how convoluted this plot is. It is ridiculously layered with problem over complication over excessive science fiction. Not to mention the character are all excessively annoying: Qing-Jao, Jane, Quara, Miro, Grego, Novinha—it must run in the family that the last four belong to.
In addition, Ender’s character is seriously downplayed, which I wouldn’t mind except he seems to be the centre of all these problems. He’s a diplomat between the pequeninos, the buggers and the humans, and yet that has a very small role. And the characters who replace him are irritating (see above).
The only thing retained from Ender’s Game is the ethical issues that toy around with the characters, which makes it kind of satisfying when the characters you dislike struggle. The book deals with religion and politics and the judgement of what is right.
It also deals a lot with family, the aspect which I enjoy the most. My favourite scene is when Olhado and Valentine are talking and Olhado explains how important Ender has been in his life.
Plus the ending (for both Ender and Qing-Jao) brings up a lot of questions. Why did Ender create what he created subconsciously? What’s going to happen with them? Was Qing-Jao seriously wrong or seriously right? Or was it somewhere in the middle?
So yeah, in response to this post, I’m probably going to read Children of the Mind, if only to end this story. Because despite it all, I need some closure. I’ve gotten so sucked into the story of Ender, I care about what happens to him. Kind of like the HIMYM finale. It may not be what I wanted, but at least it ended and I’ll be satisfied.
Recommendations: Maybe. If you’ve read Speaker for the Dead you’re pretty much obligated to read Xenocide because of the huge cliffhanger. At this point, though, I suggest reading only Ender’s Game, since most of the follow-up story is like this.