Tag Archives: orson scott card

The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card

The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card (unabridged audiobook read by Scott Brick and a full cast; 18.5 hrs on 15 discs): The first half or so of this book is a novella about the life of Jason Worthing, a telepath born thousands of years before. Jason’s world revolves around Somec, a drug that basically puts people into suspended animation and is distributed out based on merit, not money, to preserve the “most valuable” individuals for future generations. The greater the value of the person, the greater the ratio of time asleep to time awake, with the Empress at the highest Somec levels: awake one day for every five years asleep. Like a pebble skipping across a pond, these people skip across time, and ultimately the human race stagnates, as the most innovative minds are never awake long enough to accomplish anything. This is also the story of Jason’s colony started from scratch, the colonists adults with the minds of infants. This part got a little preachy – one of the examples of how degenerate life in the capital city had become was how the citizens found defecation more offensive than fornication – but most of the rest of it was pretty good. The latter half was a bunch of short stories, some retelling tales from earlier in the book, others new stories of Somec. Though some of them were kind of interesting, the addition felt unnecessary. All in all, well, this book passed the time. It wasn’t especially engaging. I find Card to be hit or miss; this wasn’t a complete miss, but it wasn’t a hit either.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Weekly Geeks

WG 2009-39 is about book recommendations. To be perfectly honest, most of the book recommendations I follow come in the form of books literally shoved into my hands by fellow BC in DC members. We get passionate sometimes, and more than once I’ve shown passing interest in a book, only to get a glowing “OMG you must read this”-style exclamation from whoever brought it. More often than not, I give it a try. And am rarely disappointed. I’ve come across several great authors this way, including Simon Singh, Neil Gaiman, and Catherine M. Petrini. Basically if a book looks interesting, regardless of genre, I’ll give it a shot.

Sometimes the books I read are a random find, such as the infrequent occasion when I catch a BookCrossing book in the wild, or if I happen to win it in a contest. I usually have a large number of to-be-read (TBR) books on my shelves, so it is rare indeed for me to finish my current book and have to go searching for something else to read. If I do, though, there’s always The Book Seer, Literature-Map, and Debbie’s Idea, all of which are fine tools for discovering new books and authors.

The official assignment this week involves reader participation. Since the vast majority of my readership exists solely in my head, I may have to play music to drown out the crickets, but hey, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But anyway. The assignment is to ask for recommendations, and give my own, both within a single genre. So I’m going to choose science fiction/fantasy (SFF) as my genre. Some people may protest and tell me that’s two genres, but I beg to differ. First, several popular authors write books that are difficult to categorize as one or the other (e.g., Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Stasheff), and as Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

First off, I’d love to hear your recommendations. I don’t mean stuff that necessarily aligns with my established tastes, I mean great SFF books in general. What are some titles/authors I simply should not miss?

And now for my recommendations, again in SFF. The WG page suggests I start with something like “If you’re looking for…” which could just mean narrowing it down by genre, but I’m going to narrow it down a little further. So here goes:

If you’re looking for a rowdy yarn set in the far future… Mike Resnick is your man. Most of his books are set within the future chronology laid out in Birthright: The Book of Man, but my personal favorites are Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future and the Penelope Bailey trilogy.

If you’re looking for a beautiful fairy tale… then march right up to Neil Gaiman and Stardust. This is one of the few books I’ve kept and intend to reread. I hear Neverwhere is his best novel, but I haven’t read it yet (though I do have a copy on my shelf).

If you’re looking for a powerful tale of children in an adult world… I cannot recommend Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card highly enough.

If you’re looking for hilarious satire in the guise of SFF… then you want definitely to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

If you’re looking for time travel… The Time Machine by H.G. Wells is your best bet. There are other notables in this sub-genre, but Wells tops them all IMHO.

If you’re looking for good YA SFF… I really enjoyed the Borderlands books, especially Elsewhere and its sequel Never Never by Will Shetterly.

If you’re looking for great concept stories… Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov are all excellent choices for expanding your horizons.

And finally, if you’re looking for mythology in the modern world… you’re sure to get a kick out of Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips.

So there you have it.  I’m sure I’ll missed a bunch, but this is a good start.  What glaring omissions do you spot on this page? Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Most importantly: enjoy! :)

Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card

Shadow of the Hegemon by Orson Scott Card: The League Wars are over, but the struggle continues between various world powers. Someone kidnaps all the Battle School kids who served under Ender during the Bugger War. Bean alone escapes this fate. Though he must go into hiding, he seeks out the only person who can help him free the others: Peter Wiggin. Most of the story revolves around Bean and Petra, but I didn’t feel like I got to know her any better than I did in Ender’s Game. Of course, I’ve noticed Card’s difficulty with writing realistic female characters before. The continuation of Achilles’s tale was kind of interesting but not especially believable. I hear the series improves as you go along. Not that this is such a bad book – it just didn’t do much for me.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: This is more or less the same time frame covered in Ender’s Game, only from Bean’s point of view. It begins with his life as a street urchin in Rotterdam and continues all the way through the end of the Bugger War. There is some overlap between the two books, but since it’s from another point of view it doesn’t feel repetitive. Bean’s train of thought is fascinating and I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced like Achilles and Sister Carlotta. I think of all the other children at Battle School, Bean was the best choice to get his own story, but Ender is still my favorite character. And despite Card’s hope for this book to work on its own, I don’t think I’d enjoy Ender’s Game as much if I’d read Ender’s Shadow first. A lot is lost if you already know the ending. Ender’s Shadow seems almost predicated on audience understanding. That said, it’s still a worthy addition to the series, and I look forward to reading the other books and learning what Bean’s adult life has in store for him.

Also posted on BookCrossing.com.

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card: This final book in the Ender Quartet spends most of its time tying up loose ends from Xenocide than moving the story along. The fleet still threatens the planet Lusitania, Jane still faces imminent destruction, Miro is still angstful about his love life, and Ender’s still going a bit mad. Everything is tied up neatly at the end, but by and large these latter two novels – Xenocide and Children of the Mind – feel superfluous. I admire Card for his amazing SF ideas, especially the development of the Piggies, but there wasn’t much point in putting all the aiua business in the Ender universe. But that’s okay. Now I know how it ends, and if I care to reread the series in the future, I’ll simply stop after Speaker for the Dead.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card: The third book in the Ender Wiggin saga was not originally intended to involve Ender at all, and it kind of shows. Most of the story revolves around a couple “god-spoken” denizens of the Chinese-ish world of Path, who believe the gods tell them what to do in between demands for absurd and humiliating purification rituals. The characters are generally either uninteresting or unlikeable, but Card’s writing is good enough that it isn’t too tiresome. However, the metaphysical, philosophical, and religious discussions get old, and too often Card falls into the trap that ensnares so many male SF/F writers: making women self-righteous harpies in lieu of actually giving them personalities. Ella alone escapes this fate, though that may be due to her lack of romantic interests. While I enjoyed the more in-depth discussion of the descolada virus and Jane’s origins, I could have done without Ender’s unrealistic marital problems and the deus ex machina of “outside.” (Those who have read the book will know what I mean.) I sincerely hope the next (and once last) book in the series, Children of the Mind, will bring some closure to the ridiculously tangled story going on here. Otherwise I’ll probably wish I’d stopped after Speaker for the Dead.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: I consider this less the second book in a series or even a mere sequel than the second half of Ender Wiggin’s story. What began with his troubled childhood in the Battle School concludes on the planet of Lusitania, where the first intelligent alien species in 3000 years has been discovered. The Piggies, as they are affectionately called, are full of mysteries and questions, but they seem friendly enough. However, when two xenologists are found brutally slain by the Piggies, fear and suspicion begin to spread through the human colony. It’s another solid story about understanding alien societies, full of memorable and realistic characters. As an added bonus, most of the questions raised in Ender’s Game (how did the video game know about Peter, what happened to the Hive Queen etc.) are answered. Definitely an excellent book. I’m surprised people don’t praise the pair of novels as much as Ender’s Game alone, actually. I’m glad I read this. Highly recommended.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: I first read this between fifteen and twenty years ago and remember really enjoying it then. This time was no different. Ender is a brilliant child soldier, drafted into Battle School at the age of six. He and his comrades are training to fight the Buggers, a hostile alien race who have invaded Earth twice already with terrible casualties. Though it sounds from this two-sentence description to be your standard military science fiction, it is something quite apart from those. This is not about the glories of war, but rather the troubles of a young child forced to grow up before he’s even reached puberty. It’s also the story of his two brilliant siblings, left on Earth to deal with their own troubles. Ender is extremely sympathetic; even when he was cruel I only pitied him. This is definitely one I will be reading again someday.

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card: I’ve read a lot of books about writing, and while this one does not say anything I didn’t already know, it does go into more detail specifically regarding the speculative fiction genre. For example, Card explains things like the use of metaphor in science fiction (very tricky); the importance of backstory, world history, and even alien evolution (and what happens if you skimp on it); and developing the rules of the universe you’ve created. This is a good book as far as writing speculative fiction goes, but it assumes you already know something about fiction writing in general. I would recommend it as a companion or secondary book on writing, not the very first thing you pick up upon making the decision to try your hand at the craft.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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