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on 4 November 2007
I'm guessing you like Enders game. If not there is no reason to buy and read this book. For those that have already enjoyed the strangely entitled "Enderverse" then I'm guessing you'll end up buying and reading this book. Fair enough.

It's okay. It's a nice little story. Emphasis on the little. A total of 126 pages and the font is big and there is a lot of white space. It could easily have been condensced to 60 pages without causing eye-strain. The sleeve of the hard-back feels like it was designed for a bigger book than it is, and the pages have been cut in such a way as to create the illusion of a manuscript.

It's not worth the money. Really. It's a nice little story with Ender playing the important but not lead role. Dink plays a bigger role, if you liked the old characters. Perhaps I should outline the plot a bit. It's set in the battle-school whilst Ender is there. A young boy named Zeck has been selected for training and he goes up there. On Earth Zeck is beaten by his father who's some kind of Minister: claiming that he is beating the evil out of him. In order for Zeck to not consciously hate his father he gets the religious bug, big-time and generally infuriates everyone else at the school by being so pious. Dink and a side character decide to celebrate Christmas (this is set whilst Ender is Rat Army). Zeck gets pious and gets ostracised as a result. Ender then comes in and heals Zeck of his personal demons and all is well in the end.

This should really have been available as a $2 download. Honestly, OSC has done some god stuff - but this takes money-grabbing and playing on the "Ender-brand" to the Nth degree.

Buy it if you're obsessed with Ender. Get a copy out of the library otherwise.

Hopefully OSC wil release a proper book from the Ender-verse at some point.
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Science fiction and Christmas usually don't connect. They have different focuses, and not much in common.

But Orson Scott Card gives it a good try in the megabrief novella "A War of Gifts." Despite a rather abrupt ending, it's a pleasant little story with a dark side that one doesn't expect from a Christmas story, and a Scroogian main character who's hard to like.

That character is Zech Morgan, son of a fanatical preacher who condemns everything, and "purifies" Zech by beating him. Even when he's drafted into Battle School, which does not allow outward religious observance, he shows nothing but pious contempt for his classmates and superiors. But on Sinterklaas, one Dutch boy slips a gift into another's shoe. Zech sees and reports it, but their superior doesn't care.

Soon the other children have decided to pull a "Santa Claus" -- they'll exchange little gifts and favours over the holidays. But since Zech believes that Saint Nick is a tool of the devil, he disrupts the festive favors -- and it may take Ender Wiggin to show him what the real problem is.

Just a warning: this book is very short. Very short. As in, 130 smallish pages short -- if rendered in normal pages, it would be a fair-sized short story. But despite its brevity, it is a pleasant little story.

Half is a story about kids celebrating the spirit of Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Ramadan) despite their sterile, grim surroundings. Lots of fun, goodwill, and general holiday spirit. But about halfway through, it suddenly becomes darkly unfestive, as Ender tries to force Zech to confront -- without any "my father says" or Bible quotes -- the painful truth of his own feelings, and his father's cruelty.

Okay, readers will have picked that up long before. But Card imbues plenty of feeling into the story, including one bittersweet chapter about the Wiggin family Christmas without Ender. The main problem is that the ending is very abrupt -- it feels like Card lost interest after Zech and Ender's conversation, and wrapped it up as quickly as he could.

Zech is one of the most unpleasant lead characters in a Christmas story since Ebenezer Scrooge -- snotty, fanatical, hypocritical, and deliberately irritating. But Card inspires some pity for his miserable life, although thankfully Zech doesn't magically become lovably outgoing by the end. Ender's brief appearance is solid, but Peter's contemplation of his family situation is even better.

"A War of Gifts" is a bit darker and less festive than most Christmas stories, but still a nice little read for the holidays. Just don't expect more than a short story.
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on 2 December 2010
I thoroughly enjoyed the Ender saga, which led me to purchase the Shadow saga as well and enjoyed that as much as the first set of books. I've read both sets of books multiple times and they were the reason for my purchase of First Meetings: In the Enderverse and A War of Gifts (Ender Wiggin Saga) a few years later.

However, both these books were poorly written and without much purpose, they didn't further the original story in any way and were written purely to cash in on the success of the earlier books.

I was a big fan of Card before buying the above two books, but after wasting my money on them I don't think I will be buying any of his books in future. If you want to try another Card book I'd recommend something other than the two mentioned above.
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on 14 September 2009
This is little more than a short story really. 128 pages in hardback is somehow being stretched to over 200 pages in the forthcoming paperback version - I can only suppose by adding pictures, big fonts or lots of white space. I read through the book in one sitting yesterday afternoon.

Its not a bad story though. Zeck is raised in an abusive household where his father is some kind of freelance minister of religion who believes he is the only true pure person on earth. Zeck, being a small boy, internalises this philosophy despite his photographic memory and gift for reading people that would look like a savant tendency even in a mature adult.

And then he is taken away to battle school, where his religion is outlawed and where he refuses to co-operate.

The story is about coming of age, and healing of the past and of friendships too. And it is readable - good for anyone who has read all the Ender books. Probably not the place to start for anyone else, as too much of the scenario is undescribed. What and where is battle school? why can the IF steal children? who are the Formics? Who is Ender Wiggin? I think anyone who cannot answer these questions might be a little frustrated by this story. Thus a book for "Ender" series completists only.

The story is also problematic in other ways. Card rattles out these abusive church scenarios too commonly (for anyone who has read a lot of his work). Not that I think he should not do it. People often abuse positions of trust and have inflated opinions of themselves which they prey off, so why should he not write about such things? But I found Zeck's father to be too fantastic. He is too obvious, and I think a character with much more false humility would have been more believable. The line "we are puritans, not fundamentalists" seemed to suggest that there is some kind of fundamentalist orthdoxy that describes that group, which is not true. Moreover they did not sound like puritans.

Likewise these battle school kids are simply too deep! Geniuses they certainly are, but where did they get all that wisdom at the age of 8 or 9? The more I read of this series, the more poorly it reflects on some of the initial concepts - and I think Ender is a project that Card really should lay to rest, and move on to something new.

So in summary, if you want a short and fun read with nothing too deep, and if you already enjoy Ender Wiggin books, and don't mind the fact this one is so short - then you will enjoy this book. Otherwise you might want to move along to something else.
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on 5 November 2009
File under interesting. The first two Ender books are brilliant, in different ways. The rest are generally okay, but this is definitely a "collecters only" novella.
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on 13 December 2009
I liked it, no suprise there. But the length of the book was a small suprise. It was shorter than I had hoped for. Fortunately I bought "Ender in excile" at the same time, so I can move on to that with no delay (as I in fact already have done, and am enjoyin the book immensly).

As I had reread the Shadow saga just reasently and was again enchanted by Bean, it was nice to be remainded of why I love Ender in this shot story before moving on to read Ender in Excile.

Definately a must read to any and all Ender fans! But if you're new to the Ender universe, please don't start here, but from the begining (Ender's game).
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on 10 January 2010
This book, in a large typeface in the copy I purchased, is really a short story expanded to fill a thinnish book. Be that as it may I enjoyed it, as I have all Orson Scott Card's writings. I didn't expect too much however, having read negative reviews before I purchased the book.
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on 5 January 2008
The story was in line with the Ender books, shame it was so short.
The quality of hte book manufacturing was abysmal. OK the pages were acid-free paper BUT the leaves looked like they had been poorly ripped into approximately the right sizes.
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on 21 June 2015
The Ender thing is getting a bit too weird and threadbare, these days. It started with a fantastic premise, but there are only so many directions it can develop in.
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on 27 December 2007
It's a lot shorter than I was expecting - and smaller - and expensive for what it was. Nice enough but Orson Scott Card can and has written much much better. Worth reading if you like the Ender series, but probably not worth buying
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