So my last escapades with the Enderverse left me under-whelmed a tired of the series. But I still wanted to continue reading them, but the next book I got my hands on was First Meetings in the Enderverse, which is a series of four short stories. Now perhaps because they were short, and perhaps because they weren’t back on Bean and Achilles, but I liked these stories. They were sweet, and interesting. The Polish Boy
Here we get to follow Ender’s father, John-Paul Wiggan (actual last name Wieczorek) as a child living in, you guessed it, Poland. He was an extremely astute child, and was able to let’s say manipulate people. But not really in a bad way, just he was able to say the right thing to get people to do what he wanted. For example he could stop a fight between his siblings by saying something. But it also meant that he was able to play Graff so well later on. Before they met though, he was tested (early) by the IF, and everyone got quite excited by him. So then Graff came along and tried to get him to join the Battle School. But he doesn’t want to play their game. He doesn’t want to be a soldier. But he does want a better life for his family who suffer because they have too many children. So he gets Graff to agree to take his family to the US and let them all be schooled (they were forced to be home school), but he has not intention of properly doing Battle School, and Graff knows it. In the end it is clear that Graff is content to wait for him to have children, and then to use them.
We get the story of how Ender’s parents meet, and it’s at university. John is a smart but overly arrogant young man, and Theresa is just as smart, and probably just as arrogant. Theresa is a grad lecturer in one of John’s courses, which he didn’t choose, and it was obviously rigged by Graff and co to get the pair together. They have an interesting discussion about human evolution and the role of communities (Card certainly likes to get into philosophy) as well as population control. Theresa at first doesn’t want much to do with John, but he is sweet enough to try to comfort her after she finds out she will no longer get credit for her own work (on the downfall of civilisations) because of her father (who is trying to fight the population controls and the Hegemon). In the end they grow closer, and even discuss the possibility that Graff and co orchestrated them being together.
I was most curious to see the original short story which started it all. It’s similar, but different to the final product. It starts with Ender as the captain of his army, and suggests he has been there three years (which from my memory seems too long, but I don’t know). Bean is still involved, but, his actual story of being a genetic mutant and living on the streets obviously hadn’t entered Card’s mind yet. Though Bean still featured quite a bit. More interestingly is that the enemy aren’t a hive mind, they just seem to be these other ‘people’. And more, Ender was explicitly told not to use the weapon on anything other than the other ships (perhaps purposefully to make him do exactly that) and the ansible was revealed to him early on. And I think they were still on Earth, it was a little confusing. I’m quite glad Card expanded on this work, because there was so many questions and not enough answers from it.
An interesting story about how Ender met Jane. Apparently when you turn 20 you have to start paying taxes, and for Ender that’s a nightmare, with all his fortunes that were invested for him for saving humanity and all, plus leaving them be for a few hundred years is pretty good too. So he’s left with a huge problem, which Jane can solve for him, posing as some software. Along the way, Ender’s true identity is found out by a tax agent who works at the border (you have to pay your taxes before you can enter), who wanted a piece of his huge fortune. But Jane helped with that too, and ensured Ender’s files were hidden away.
Overall they were all interesting enough, and brought some new insight into the series.