My fiction reading life recently has been conducted nostalgically under the auspices of guilt. Many of my moments were stolen from time I should have been dedicating to the book I was writing. And yet, I think they were part of what kept me sane. I’m far less burnt out than I expected to be, writing wise at least. I really, really want to tackle the last little bit of a short story I started before the contract got real and the short story that needs a revision. Plus a genius editor nudged me in the direction of turning one of my short stories into a stand alone novel that would probably be a better first novel to market than my beloved trilogy.
My house is a thorough mess though. This weekend we should have the companion website complete and so my work with that book will be lessened. Not finished, alas, since there are promoting things to do for it.
The two books I’ve read during this time were Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, which I’d hoped to finish for a book club but didn’t make. I sort of doubt I’ll be able to do the next one in my club, which is Kay’s Summer Tree, but at least I’ll show up.
Ysabel feels to me to be a more realistic “Harry Potter”. The main character is a young man who has discovered that he is gifted with magic. If there were magic in the world hidden from most people, I feel more it would take the form of this than a society which so isolates itself it doesn’t even know how “muggles” live. Another way it parted from the cliche Cinderella archetype is that our main character has a fairly good family and it naturally becomes a family affair to help in the quest of this book. The boy experiences a true coming of age through the experiences of the book and we come to appreciate what kind a man he is becoming. These two depictions (a family coming together and the taking up of hard responsibilities) is worth the read all by itself.
Still, in some ways this book seemed to be a bit slow. The action and problems didn’t build up enough. When I discovered I was near the end, it surprised me and I wondered how it would resolve quickly. The problem itself seemed to simply dissolve upon reaching the 1st goal. There had been expectation that they’d need to DO something after it was reached and our hero was given tools as well. This made the end, while interesting, a bit dissatisfying and even more so considering how some aspects of the magic system were explained.
The next book I finished was Orson Scott Card’s Ender in Exile.
I have to admit that I’ve been reading Card since I was a teenager. At this point, that is more of my life than not. His writings, to me, always feel like the comfortable coming home. This isn’t just a matter of nostalgia. He isn’t the only favorite author from my youth, but he is always the cleanest and quickest read.
This one came home a bit too much for me, but I don’t think my problem would transfer over to many. Well, actually I kind of hope that a lot of people would have at least a similar problem since that would mean more success for his InterGalactic Medicine Show magazine. (You know, the one where MY story is…) Card wrote several short stories set in the Enderverse in the hopes that this could bolster the magazine up. These found themselves in the book as well, with some slight revision.
This means that in the middle of the book I reread passages I’d read not just once, but a very thorough second and sometimes third time for the sake of helping with Jake Black’s upcoming Authorized Ender’s Companion.
After having experienced that, I have to admit that while I felt some feelings of “Please, lets get through this” it opened up to me Card’s talent for editing and melding all of these stories into one. The book flowed rather well. I doubt that anyone who hadn’t read the other stories would know their origins.
The story itself was as always with Card a satisfying exploration of character. From a boy shattered by his unintentional act of xenocide to a young man with hope of redemption, we see here finally the story we didn’t know we wanted: Ender’s growth into Andrew Wiggin, Speaker for the Dead.
We see the parents who, though desperate for their lost son, know he can never return. I must admit to being somewhat irritated at Ender in regards to his reaction to this. Where he was so smart before, he is suddenly oblivious? Of course, he doesn’t know what readers of the Shadow books know. Still I expected more, but maybe not. Aren’t we all oblivious to our parents? Maybe there is some kind of strange veil over the workings of those who have cared for us since before our brains knew how to distinguish between color and sound.
It was Valentine that they send in their stead to care for Ender. Valentine who is still healing herself. She and Ender have not yet found the familiar relationship that carried them through millennia, but we see its beginnings here.
The familiar scene of Ender finding the cocoon fares well under Cards extended treatment and the planet Shakespeare (formerly known as Rov) also thrives in the heart of the reader.
The story of Virlomi and Randall Firth on Ganges, which becomes the ending of this book, unfortunately suffers. What page time they had was undeniably good but I felt it was glossed over. This was probably in favor of adding already written material.
There is talk of Card milking his Ender books. True or not (and if true I suspect the publisher of pushing it) this addition to the Enderverse is not a flimsy add on to the same universe, desperately trying to achieve the same blockbuster success simply be being associated with its predecessors, but is satisfying deeper look at Ender that seems to know its place.