Ender’s Saga #3 (Xenocide)
I grudgingly give this book a 3, based only on my affection for the characters and the creativity of the story. Most of the book suffers from overkill in one sense or another, which leads to its main problem of length. It´s impossible to deny that Card is brilliant, but I can think of no writers other than Dickens (barely) and presumably Tolstoy (although I have yet to read him) who can justifiably write 600 or more pages of novel. Yes I’m aware I’m including Dostoyevsky in this statement (sorry Karamazov-lovers). Card could have brought this one in at under 500 and lost nothing while gaining much due to brevity.
Problems (where to start?): ***SPOILERS BELOW***
Much of the length problem was due to tedious treatment of 3 of the main characters. Miro — look, I get that he doesn´t like being paralyzed and that he´s wallowing in self-pity. You can cut at least 10 pages of his wallowing and I will still understand it. His transformation at the end will still be impactful.
Si Wang-Mu — the introduction of Path and the gradual revelation of OCD was masterful. What I needed much less of was the hammering home of their inner turmoil over the gods. There´s a specific 5 page passage starting on 430 that as far as I can tell is used solely for Wang-Mu to ponder the nature of godhood. If you´re going to spend 5 pages on her, at least use it to develop the mind-boggling and completely inexplicable split-second decision she makes at the end to run off with New Peter.
Quara — I did not swallow this character for one instant. Besides the ridiculous lapse in logic that she´s prepared to wipe out 2 species (including her own) so as not to kill 1 species, I´m supposed to believe that she´s defending Descolada just to get back at her family? And this is the first sign of mental instability that she´s shown in 30 years? Ender couldn´t have “healed” her in all that time (Is he a demi-god with supernatural powers of healing as shown in Speaker for the Dead or isn´t he?)? And then in all the arguments they had with her, no one could have raised the point that a dying Piggy raises at the very end: even if Descolada is a sentient being, it is a murderous and tyrannous one, and we have the right to defend ourselves. This woman is simply insane, and I do not believe that she would have been allowed to affect so much of the goings-on if Card were trying to be at all realistic. She was used to create conflict in an already uber-conflictive book, and guess what — not necessary! That´s almost 30 pages saved right there. Did anyone else catch the part where she was passing Ela´s defense work to the virus itself? Mentioned but never follwed up on.
My other objections are less grave. There´s the dialogue style, just as present in Speaker for the Dead and to a lesser extent in Ender´s Game, where every character is constantly psychoanalyzing every other, and everything they say can be decoded to show a deep personal insight. Although it worked without overtly bothering me in the first two books it got to be too much in this one (perhaps due to the length). People don´t actually talk like this, or if they do I´ve never met them. It´s not natural and became intrusive to my reading experience. There was a bizarre narration sequence on page 100 where Card suddenly addresses the reader in the 2nd person — jarring to say the least. Finally, there was the arrival of young Val and New Peter at the end, which I just thought was unnecessary. There was already PLENTY going on in this novel, why add more complication out of the blue?
This is one of my longest reviews because this book was very frustrating to me. It was frustrating because there were so many really good things about it (mainly plot and the ethical/geo-political dilemmas), but some really bad ones as well.