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Children Of The Mind: Book 4 of the Ender Saga Paperback – 2 Dec 1999
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Orson Scott Card's SF career began with Ender's Game, a 1977 story expanded into an acclaimed 1985 novel. Unwittingly responsible for xenocide--destruction of an alien species--while still a boy, Ender expiates his guilt on another world in Speaker for the Dead. This confronts humanity with a deadly alien-built virus whose elimination seems to demand another xenocide. The tense continuing story takes an extraordinary leap into magical metaphysics at the climax of Xenocide, of which Children of the Mind is in effect the second half. Though that virus is now defeated, this isn't believed: the planet-eating doomsday weapon still approaches. Ender's AI friend Jane, who inhabits the galactic net and is the only agency that can move spacecraft faster than light, is being killed by dismantling the net. Ender himself is fading, passing responsibility to strange young avatars of his dead brother and aging sister created from his memories in Xenocide. Even in the shadow of death there are grippingly argued political, philosophical and moral debates--plus bitter family quarrels. A master storyteller with a knack for showing painful human relationships, Card achieves almost unbearable suspense before resolving his complex tangle and finishing Ender's 3000-year story with a touching elegy. One dangling plot line suggests that Card may return again to this universe. Solid, high-quality SF despite some implausible science. --David Langford
Haunting, compulsive, urgently readable...Story-telling genius (INTERZONE)
Card's prose is powerful (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)
Full of surprises...Intense is the word for Orson Scott Card's ENDER'S GAME (NEW YORK TIMES)
Orson Scott Card's SF career began with Ender's Game, a 1977 story expanded into an acclaimed 1985 novel. Unwittingly responsible for xenocide--destruction of an alien species--while still a boy, Ender expiates his guilt on another world in Speaker for t (David Langford, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW)
Top customer reviews
So much more than previous books though, it is driven primarily by philosophical exposition - very little actually *happens* in it. It seems in some respects to be an indulgence on the part of the author, looking to inject his own metaphysical meanderings somewhere people would actually read them. That's not wrong - he can put whatever he likes in his books - but it always seems a little bit cheap to insert your words into the mouths of your characters. The Ender books have always merged philosophy and narrative. They just usually do a better job of making it seamless than in this one.
Still, this mild criticism aside, I'm glad I read it because it brings a good sense of closure to a complex cycle of books. However, certainly at the moment, I feel like I'm done with Ender - looking at the ten remaining books in the series brings a sense of dread rather than a sense of excitement. In my review of Xenocide, I said that it had given me a slight case of 'sequel fatigue'. Children of the Mind stands as a book despite that, but it did put the nail in the coffin of my wanting to read any more in the Enderverse any time soon.
Then we got SPEAKER OF THE DEAD. The book that Card wanted to write but realised he had to begin at the beginning. A lot has been said about Card's Mormon faith and the fact that he is one of the very few writers of sci-fi who writes about families, the desperate needs and the unconditional love that they come with. The horror and the truly sublime are just different aspects of the same thing. The really interesting aspect of this novel for me was the way that someone with a devout faith chooses a character that, although it would be misleading to call atheist, treats organised religion with suspicion. As something that is perhaps needed by some but is not relevant to him. The main story is centred on a dysfunctional family who are helped by Ender to grieve and move on. A story that has more relevance to Ender himself.
The next book picks up on the fact that XENOCIDE is potentially coming to this new planet and desperate measures are needed. I felt that Card begins to lose his way here and some of the ideas towards the end of this novel are plain and simple bonkers. That's not to say that the book's not worth reading as yet again he managed to create a lump in my throat at some of his trademark emotional moments...I thrilled at as the poitical temperature increased and emotions where sent on a crazy dance as relationships mutate to the bizarre situations that the characters find themselves in.
So yeah, can you feel the 'but' coming? The thing is there wasn't going to be a fourth book. The third was going to end the story but he created too much for one book and decided to split them. The problem with this is that I don't really think he came up with enough for a full fourth book.
CHILDREN OF THE MIND has some funny moments, but not as many as the previous books. It has moments of tension, but not as many as the previous books. It has moments of emotional crisis, but they just don't weigh as heavy or have the same effect on the reader. If you've enjoyed the previous books, it's worth getting to the end of this and as Card is such an experienced writer this is never a chore. It's just not as much of a joy as the others (especially ENDERS GAME) have been.
As the back cover explains, Jane--the artificial lifeform--is able to travel "outside" of space-time. At first this was interesting and exciting, but after the Nth time, it merely became annoying. Also, the book has drifted from the philosophical roots of the previous books, and instead this book concentrates more on the "mystical" and spiritual elements which, again, just became tedious.
If you feel obliged to read this novel due to the high quality of the other books in the series, think twice, for it's not essential.
Like Roy, I also found the FTL mechanism - indeed, the whole "Outside" concept, and aiuas - a little far-fetched.
Also, it appears that the only notable thing to have happened in the 3000 years between now and the time this book is set is the Bugger War. At least, no mention is made of any other historical events. Does this not seem a little far-fetched as well?
If you've read the rest, you probably need to read this for completion - but don't expect to be wildly impressed. When he's hot OSC is the best - but on this occaision he fluffed it.
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