Saturday, August 24, 2013

Speaker for the Dead; Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Originally posted at Goodreads

I had the benefit of having read a handful of books under the sci-fi genre before reading Card. I say a benefit for perhaps it had laid a saturated foundation of sci-fi conventionalities and cliches that had made the Ender's Series not only a new and fresh and enticing piece, but rather an unprecedentedly enjoyable one. I have disconcerted reviewing the second book for a visceral feeling that such review would almost encompass the third, which in hindsight is nothing less of what I deem to have been an accurate prediction.

I grudgingly gave three stars to both second and third books in the series. Card is a great story teller gifted with novel imagination, to say that he is also as consistent as one could possible be in writing is as true as the former statement can be (perhaps the solitary fundamental rationale for rendering the review for both the second and third books).

Ender's Game is one which I could call a true series. Now what this statement evidently precipitates is that the plot is so well thought of that it takes care of the two essential things in a series that is: 1) The plot development in every book is good in itself 2) The plot development in each book serves as indispensable precedent to the next one in the series. Already this sets apart Card and the Ender Game series from the myriad of series that are so drawn-out in all genres because of the reasons we all know too much about. I praise this continuity in Card that other writers can only dream of and so desire to have. Card however strains me beyond relief with his numerous recapitulations that are repetitive, impractical and oh so annoying. Take this for example:

On page 163 of Xenocide
“Not far from the gate, but outside it, stood two fathertrees, the one named Rooter, the other named Human, planted so that from the gate it would seem that Rooter was on the left hand, Human on the right. Human was the pequenino whom Ender had been required to ritually kill with his own hands, in order to seal the treaty between humans and pequeninos. Then Human was reborn in cellulose and chlorophyll, finally a mature adult male, able to sire children.”

On page 172
"Ender ignored the argument, because Jane was whispering in his ear through the jewel-like transceiver he wore there. "

On page 372
“The xenologer Pipo became her surrogate father-- and then became the first human to be tortured to death by the pequeninos. Novinha then spent twenty years trying to keep her lover, Libo-- Pipo's son, and the next xenologer-- from meeting the same fate. She even married another man to keep Libo from getting a husband's right of access to her private computer files, where she believed the secret that had led the piggies to kill Pipo might be found. And in the end, it all came to nothing. Libo was killed just as Pipo was.”

As I said, on this aspect, the book flayed. I guess I have to consider the fact that Card struggled trying to explain to middle-of-the-series-book readers what the precedents were. It was utterly impractical and annoying. The book can only be truly enjoyed by reading it as a true series. If card removed such parts of his writing devoid of meaning, he could have easily staved-off ten pages or more. The second of the series is a 400 page novel, the third a 600 paged one, respectively. Card is great, but a 600 paged novel is taxing credulity, so perhaps the resort to the innumerable recapitulations throughout? For all that, I found myself turning pages both for the occasional jewel, for the sought out eureka moment in Card's story and the unbearable extended internal monologue that by now has characterized Card's manner of writing. And on that concluding moment, I again find myself, looking forward to the conclusion of the series.
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