13 August, 2012

Review: First Meetings in Ender's Universe

First Meetings in Ender's Universe First Meetings in Ender's Universe by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know it must be very difficult to keep up a coherent storyline over decades of different books, so I'm not terribly perturbed by the conflicts these short stories have with other, more recent books in the Ender universe. Nevertheless, they should be acknowledged, and that is what I do here. (Spoilers ahead.)

The biggest seeming contradiction is that of Jane's introduction. In other books, it is made clear that she is in fact very different from how she portrays herself in "Investment Counselor". Yet this is not a strict contradiction, because it would make sense for her to make up lies in order to to not have Ender refuse her company. In the text, she claims to Ender that other copies of her program would exist if others purchased her services; there's no way to reconcile this unless you take it as Jane saying a bald faced lie to Ender. And while her insistence that Ender's financial information would be safe with her was true, the specific fact she told Ender was that the info on his physical hard drive would not be copied offworld by ansible -- this is something that would be impossible for Jane to comply with, since the functions of her very thinking itself requires too much computing power to work locally on Ender's hardware alone. Further, she never mentions that she was coded originally to serve Ender's finances directly at Bean's insistence. However, all these seeming contradictions might be explained by accepting that Jane's first talks with Ender were full of lies.

A secondary contradiction also arises in "The Polish Boy" and "Teachers Pest". At several times in Ender's universe books, Card goes to a lot of trouble to point out that credit for many unbelievable things is owed to pure chance. Ender was smart, but no genetically enhanced Bean. Several decisions which looked smart in retrospect only turned out correct through luck. This theme is carried through MANY novels by Card in this series of books. Yet, by writing these two short stories, we come to find that, in fact, even Ender's birth was arranged by Graff. This completely subverts the theme of showing how lucky everyone was for things to fall together, and instead imparts an incredible amount of foresight to Graff. While not a strict contradiction of facts, this is a contradiction of the spirit of many books in the Ender series.

Nevertheless, these stories are still good additions to the Ender universe, and are worth reading for any fan of the series.

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