Similar to the second book in the Enderverse series, The Speaker for the Dead, this too is a meditative slow burn, but burn it does!
First things first, this is not a standalone read, so if you want to read this book I highly recommend reading the first two, or the least the second one.
The book continues where the second on left off, the struggles of co-existence of the 3 species – humans, pequininos and the buggers (and possibly a couple more) an alien planet continue. What further complicates the co-existence is the interference of the monolithic organisation that serves as one of the book’s antagonists – the Starways Congress.
What I liked about the book
Same as the second volume in the Enderverse series this book further explores the meaning of being alive – being sentient through the eyes of Jane.
It also brings in a couple of interesting new characters from another world. I loved Wang Mu and her evolving relationship with Han.
For me, however, the exploration of the underlying mythology around Philotes was the most fascinating part. Apart from the obvious inspiration from Hindu mythology and parallels to the ‘force’ of Star Wars, the way Orson Scott explores, rather, explains the metaphysical relationship between Philotes (souls) and the physical nature of the world around us is interesting.
What I disliked
Some of the solutions – journeys – within the book are simplistic (you’ll know when and if you read the book). The resolution of the mysteries in parts simplistic and in parts incomplete. I assume some of the questions will be answered in book four of the Enderverse, however, I feel some important questions should have been answered early on (not mentioning them here to avoid spoilers).
The relationship between piggies and humans wasn’t as captivating as the second book, they are often relegated to simply be an instrument of convenience for the human heroes – something that has been my issue with the entire series so far. No hero emerges from any of the alien races, they are merely facilitators for the human protagonists.
Starways Congress: There wasn’t much dwelling into the workings and the nature of the Starways Congress, a political body governing multiple interstellar colonies is portrayed as a simplistic monolithic organization – much like the Chinese government today – that has no other motive but to control the populace spread across the colonies by any means necessary. They don’t even come across as particularly smart, the only motivation for them is control.
To me personally, the Congress was pretty bland and not becoming of the complex structures that these hegemonies operate in. As the main antagonist of the book, the Starways Congress, much like most Marvel villains, serves as a simplistic but powerful force the protagonist would have to fight against.
The other villain was a, well, is a tree (that’s right) called Warmonger. I don’t even know if having this villain made any sense other than to make a religious nut (a Catholic priest – Quim Ribiera) into a martyr.
Who should read
Not the average sci-fi adventure reader’s cup of tea (IMHO). If you want to read the Enderverse series start with the first one – Ender’s Game (must read, good pace, great adventure – read the full review here) and move on to the fourth book. The second book was anyways added as an afterthought by Orson Scott Card – the author.
Next book in the Ender series
Children of the Mind