Last year I re-read one of my favourite books from high school, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I still believe it’s one of the best pieces of science fiction ever written, and I am really, REALLY looking forward to the release of the film later this year. Anyway, for some reason I never managed to get around to reading any of the other books in the Ender series and I randomly managed to get my hands on a couple of them for cheap when my local book store closed down a while ago. The two that I picked up were Speaker for the Dead and Ender in Exile. What is most interesting about these two books, is that they are technically both sequels to Ender’s Game.
Speaker of the Dead is the sequel in terms of release date. Published in 1986, it was the second book released in the series and is largely focussed on one of the human colonies established on a planet called Lusitania, home to the only sentient beings found since the destruction of the buggers. The book is set around 3000 years after the events of Ender’s Game, but thanks to the effects of relativistic time travel, Ender appears to be only 35 years old, despite living through thousands of years of human history. After the killing of one of the colonists by the planet’s native inhabitants, Ender is called to Lusitania to speak the life of the dead man. But he has an alterior motive for travelling to this planet – for the three thousand years since he destroyed her race, Ender has been carrying the Hive Queen across the stars trying to find a place for her to rest and bring her children into the world, thereby bringing the buggers back into the world. But on his arrival things aren’t quite as expected and events that have taken place in the twenty two years it has taken him to journey to Lusitania (only two weeks for him), will now affect his goal of finding the Hive Queen a new home.
In Ender In Exile, the period between Ender’s Game and Speaker For The Dead is covered. For this reason, it should really be considered as the second book in the series, even though it wasn’t published until 2008. A year after the destruction of the bugger home world, the children of Battle School have returned to Earth – all except for Ender. Debate has been raging over whether he should come home or not as it is a fact that there would be a wars between countries over who should be allowed to have Ender for their own use. In the end, he is made governor of of the first human colony to be placed on one of the former bugger worlds. It is on this planet that Ender eventually finds the pupa of the Hive Queen, inspiring him to write the history of the bugger wars from the perspective of the buggers. This book, titled The Hive Queen is taken largely as fiction but is the first example of a “Speaker for the Dead”. With it’s partner book The Hegemon (also written by Ender and based on the life of his elder brother, Peter), it becomes a new bible and is the catalyst for growing belief that Ender is not a hero, but a murderer.
So what should you read first? In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make that much of a difference, especially taking into consideration the final pages of Ender’s Game, in which the discovery of the Hive Queen is covered. I read Speaker first, but only because things should be read in the order of publishing. I didn’t feel that by doing so I missed out on anything. In terms of storyline, I found Speaker a little easier to follow. There was a slightly more political tone flowing through Exile that had me having lapses in concentration on more than one occasion and I found that it was lacking the twist of Ender’s Game and the mystery of Speaker.
But if I am perfectly honest, I could have happily gone on with my life without having read either of them. By no means are they bad. But when I think about how I felt when I read Ender’s Game fifteen years ago and realise I felt exactly the same way about it when I read it again last year, I come to the conclusion that for me, the two sequels are just not as good as the original. Seeing Ender grow in the first book and see how he reacted to the things that happened around him was nothing short of exciting for me. The entire idea of the first book was certainly ahead of it’s time (in my opinion), which would explain why, aside from being a classic of the sic-fi genre, it is still such a widely read novel today and why it has been adapted into a film nearly thirty years after it was first written. So in the end I would say if you’re a person that needs to read an entire series of books after reading the first one, you wouldn’t be disappointed with these, but don’t go into them expecting that they will reach the lofty heights of Ender’s Game.