Children of the Mind – Orson Scott Card

If you take a look at Goodreads you’ll either find a whole heap of 1-2 star ratings or 4-5 star ratings (well the ones that Goodreads deem to be popular, the actual breakdown isn’t that bad). It’s a divisive book, just like Xenocide is, and probably with good reason. Just like Xenocide this book again dares to go quite philosophical, and it’s really, really different to the first book. I recently watched the movie version of Ender’s Game and while a heck of a lot of stuff was left out, it really reminded me of the joy and fun that was in that book (yes there was lots of bad stuff too, but stuff like the battle games were really exciting and enjoyable to read). The three other books in this ‘series’ (which has so many more books to it, and I’m thinking that maybe it’s become a flogged horse), well they have such a different tone that I’m definitely not surprised that some people haven’t embraced them. Personally, I have liked the three books, they’ve been thought provoking, and exciting (in a different way), and this book was a really good way for the series to be brought to a close. Of course, there’s like 10 more books….

So the story is reasonably simple. We’re wrapping up all the little plots from the last two books, we’re colonising other planets with Buggers, Piggies and Humans, Jane is about to be wiped out, and the fleet is about to arrive to destroy Lusitania, and Peter is trying to stop that fleet. Spoiler, everything pretty much ends well, but that’s to be expected (more real spoilers beyond). Lusitania isn’t destroyed, as Peter succeeds, but only just. Jane though wiped out, is actually saved because of some neat tricks as she, well, I’ll get to that. The colonising goes very well. And Ender himself actually dies.

Now his death is quite interesting, and I’m now reminded of Harry Potter. So, in the last book Ender accidentally made Peter and Valentine ‘clones’ when they went “Out” and now his auia is divided into three bodies. We soon learn that this is unsustainable, as Ender begins to lose interest in Valentine who is out searching for more planets (or so we think for a while), and then he loses interest in his own body because all it is doing is being with his wife and doing gardening. Peter’s body however he stays very interested in. I say I’m reminded of Harry Potter because the main character dies, but doesn’t really die. Sure, his body actually is destroyed, but he lives on in Peter after a long and complex series of events which you either have read yourself, or can choose to go and do. But this death was necessary for a number of reasons.

One such reason is that it ensured that Ender actually survived otherwise all the bodies would die. Another reason is that it helped with the issue of Jane and the fact she was close to being wiped out. The body did help, and meant that she had a physical body for the first time, but it was the Mothertrees who really enabled her to survive after the ansible network was cut. That, and also her allies which kept a backup of some of her important things. And the experience of seeing Jane get her new body, and of Ender returning into a single body was strange. Card did a really good job to actually write something for it that was understandable, and I’d struggle to think of a better way, because it really is a strange thing to have to write. I am in awe of his creativity with not only that but of course the auia and the whole method of transport, I really wonder how people come up with things like this. I do dabble in writing, but fantasy I always find difficult to try and write because either it makes little sense, or it’s just formulaic and like everything else.’

Going back to Peter and his very important mission to try and stop the fleet. He goes with Si Wang-Mu to a few planets to try and find the ‘leader’ of Congress. This isn’t the actual leader, I’m not sure if there is one, but this is the person with the most influence. It happens not to be a politician at all but a philosopher who has sway with some of the members of the congress who follow the philosophy which he ‘heads’. There is a very interesting discussion about centre and edge nations, which once again show that Card has a very interesting philosophic mind to again create (or perhaps reinterpret I’m not sure) this idea. Though I’m unsure what to think about his portrayal of Asian cultures, which almost became a joke about how much Si Wang-Mu and the philosopher, Aimaina Hikari, both try to denigrate themselves before each other, so that they appear as humble as possible.

And a new plot is thrown in as well, Valentine and Miro are actually being sent not just for planet finding, but they are also being sent to try to pinpoint the origin of the descolada virus. They eventually find a planet which is very interesting, as it seems that they send out organic molecules, one of which is very similar to heroin, so seems like they were attempting to subdue these strangers. Card leaves things quite open with these ‘descoladores’, as the group decides it best not to commit xenocide on this species as maybe the true varelse are humans because they are the only ones who have knowingly committed xenocide (well attempted to – twice).

All in all, as I said above, I did like this book, but I do miss the fun of Ender’s Game. I will read on and see what the other books of the Ender’s saga have to offer because I am intrigued by Card and this world. Children of the Mind is a nice way to end the stories, it’s not perfect, but once again Card makes me think and blows my mind.

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