In the third book of the Ender’s Saga, things get pretty philosophical, more so than I thought it would. Having rebelled against the Starways Congress, the people of Lusitania are under threat of the approaching fleet which has been sent to destroy them. Not only that, but the descolada virus is causing all manner of havoc, Jane’s existence is unlikely to remain secret for much longer, and on another world people are being spoken to by gods. And we start thinking about the meaning of life, the origin of the universe, continue thinking about what is intelligence, and our heads start to hurt a bit from thinking about philotes and quantum physics.
So in reality this book has so little to do with the original, and apparently Card even admitted that he came up with the idea of this novel as something separate, but when Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead turned out to be popular, he brought this idea to Ender’s world. The storyline does work but it certainly feels like a very different type of story.
It really is thought provoking and tries to discuss really big, challenging topics. And I think it’s done in a way which is interesting and easy enough to understand. And it wasn’t completely and utterly unbelievable, sure far fetched but still plausible enough. I mean the idea that you can transport yourself anywhere just by thinking hard enough, slightly more complex than that, is hard to swallow but this is science fiction not fact. Really it’s all just a big deus ex machina ensuring that Wiggan can continue to save the day, but I don’t care all that much. After all, it doesn’t all go so well, and I’ll leave you to find out what I’m referring to, but the next book will be interesting. And for Wiggan personally, all doesn’t go quite to plan, leaving him more alone than before.
Once again we are left questioning about intelligence, and what we would do if we encountered an alien race, and what really should we be doing? Because humanities influence on the ‘piggies’ can’t really be said to be a good one, and how can we limit specific things from them just to ensure that we aren’t left regretting our involvement. For example, should we be letting the piggies leave the planet, which would mean they can proliferate the descolada virus, and kill everything? But what right do we have to stop them? And speaking of the virus, there’s an interesting supposition that perhaps it’s more alive than we thought, after all it is extremely complex and can break through all their defences, so what’s to say it isn’t alive and intelligent? And if it is, so what? Should we let it survive just to prevent a possible xenocide, but in the process kill us all? As you can see there’s a number of moral and ethical and scientific quandaries to get you thinking in this book. And that’s even before we start discussing philotes and whether they make up the universe or not, and where they come from, and how to manipulate them, now that will start hurting your head (in a good way!).
The introduction of a new world where some inhabitants are talked to by gods, but it turns out genetic manipulation was behind it, is quite interesting (I swear I say this too much, but it really is interesting). It really does bring into question the idea about what is normal, and how to go about proving the non-existence of something. How can you really say that maybe the gods aren’t real, maybe the genetic manipulation is a smoke-screen, maybe it was all a test, disproving the existence of something is very tricky. But their inclusion brings in a different dynamic.
I enjoyed this book in a different way to Ender’s Game. There was a bit of action and mystery and plenty of tension and characterisation, and it’s challenging themes didn’t diminish my enjoyment. If you’re looking for a reasonably fun book like Ender’s Game then this won’t quite hit the spot. I do look forward to concluding Ender’s quartet with Children of the Mind which is a tantalising title. Of course Card has a number more books in the series so this world won’t be over for some time.