Friday, October 23, 2009

A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card

The Ender series is very well known among fans of science fiction, in particular the Ender Quartet (Ender’s Game (based on the novelette “Ender’s Game”), Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind). Years after this was wrapped up, we saw the Shadow Quartet (Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant), along with a collection of stories, First Meetings in the Enderverse, and now we are seeing a new resurgence of the Ender series. Orson Scott Card created the webzine Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, every issue of which promises a new Ender story, while Marvel has begun adaptations of Ender novels, along with a few new stories themselves, found in Red Prophet: The Tales of Alvin Maker (contains the short graphic tale “The Gold Bug”), Ender’s Game: Battle School, Ender’s Game: Command School, Ender’s Shadow: Battle School, Ender’s Shadow: Command School, and Recruiting Valentine. The stories from Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show have all been collected so far, with the first four collected in the anthology of material from Card’s webzine, the book also holding the title of Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, another being incorporated into A War of Gifts: An Ender Story, and three more in Ender in Exile, the last two books mentioned being the new Ender novella and newest Ender novel, respectively.

Brand new in paperback, A War of Gifts: An Ender Story is a long novella that takes place during Ender’s first year at Battle School, where the kids decide that it is time for a little rebellion. After two Dutch boys celebrate Sinterklaas Day, all of the students want to bring Santa Claus to Battle School. All of them except Zeck, a religious fundamentalist whose father has literally beat into him that Santa is from Satan. Zeck works to destroy the fun the other kids are having, throwing whatever he can in the way, all in hopes of being sent home. Also worked into the story is the short story “Ender’s Stocking,” giving readers a look back at Ender’s home, where his mom deals with the grief of losing her child.

The book is a very quick read, and fun. It is nice to see the characters from the early Ender books again, especially the young Ender Wiggin. The idea Card is putting out is a good one, of acceptance and joy. The pacing is spot on, and the book never lags. A War of Gifts does have a couple of downfalls, however, among them that we see a number of students arrested due to Zeck’s selfishness, and then they disappear from the story. The role of one of them in other books is alluded to, yet at the same time the need to forgive Zeck feels lacking when a number of kids are punished, their lives seriously affected, and there is no recompense. Also, for readers who are making their first foray into the Ender series, the chapter titled “Ender’s Stocking,” which is just the short story from InterGalactic Medicine Show, will make less sense, as it is the only part of the book in which Mrs. Wiggin and Peter Wiggin are ever mentioned or play any role. More of a bone for the long-time reader’s than the new ones.

Despite these, A War of Gifts does have the good aspects I mentioned, and is great for an afternoon of reading. If nothing else, it will spark your interest to dive back into Ender’s world, as well to check out the brand new Ender in Exile.


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