Customer Reviews: Xenocide
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on July 23, 1999
It seems the reviewers of this book are divided into two camps. Some hated the book because it doesn't live up to Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, because the "plot" is boring and minimal, because it's too long and drags, etc. Others rate Xenocide highly because of its well developed characters and its treatment of ethical issues. Both views are valid to some extent, but if you're able to accept this book for what it is, then you'll find it's a superb book, well worth the time to read it.
Ender's Game is all about Ender's childhood development, as he trains to become the savior of humanity. Speaker for The Dead explores some larger issues as it tracks Ender's healing of Novinha's dysfunction family, and the plot is kept going partially through the mysteries concerning the pequininos. Xenocide is different from both of these in that there's no real main character, and very little plot; instead, the focus of the story is the dillema faced by the three sentient species of Lusitania. Within this framework, Card explores a number of unusual ethical questions, such as whether human survival justifies the extermination of another species, and whether fear of the unknown will always be a barrier when interacting with those unlike ourselves. He also develops the complex web of love and hatred within Novinha's family, and the nature of the relationships within it. At times it was almost painful to read about the emotional states of the characters, so well did Card depict it. Yet I was completely hooked from the start, and I marvel at his ability to write about some very abstract issues within a science fiction setting.
If anything, the situation Card created was too hopeless, and once things started resolving the plot became a bit incredulous. One reviewer suggested that Card wrote himself into a corner and had to resort to cheap plot devices to save himself, and that's certainly how it looks to me. Happily, this occurs so near the end it doesn't detract much from the overall value of the book. (However, the consequences are compounded in the final book, Children of the Mind, which is the only one of the four I do not recommend reading.)
I enjoyed Xenocide as much as, if not more than Ender's Game and SftD. (One has to admit that Ender's Game, fantastic as it is, is much more simplistic and lightweight than Xenocide.) As long as you don't enter with undue expectations and you are willing to explore some tough ethical issues, then you'll see the merits of this book, perhaps the most human novel Card has written.
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on July 18, 2000
"Ender's Game" is a rapid-fire, tremendously adventurous novel with a rip-roaring end. "Speaker for the Dead" is more challenging, as it turns a murder mystery into a philosophical quest. "Xenocide" goes even further up the difficulty scale, and should not be read unless a copy of the final novel, "Children of the Mind," is close at hand. "Xenocide" takes the issues of religion, racism, genocide, love, family, insanity, redemption, and the nature of the universe as its subject matter; a truly amazing mix, as you might guess. But it's not really a stand-alone novel; when you come to the end, you may feel as I did that Card cheated with a deus ex machina at the end. He didn't; I think he just decided to chop the novel off and publish it, then publish the second half as "Children of the Mind." My anger at the ending quickly faded when I started "Children of the Mind"; clearly, "Xenocide" was not the end of the story. I loved the entire Ender Quartet, even if it was hard going for many readers to shift from "Ender's Game" to "Speaker for the Dead." Card has produced a philosophical masterpiece of science fiction in this series, and one that is only matched by his "Pastwatch Redemption" in its scale and importance in his writings. One of the few genre writers worth re-reading in his or her entirety, Card continues to amaze with the breadth and depth of his creations.
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on February 28, 2007
I have read the whole ender series, but with a strange sequence which may have affected the way I view the different books in the series. The first book I have read was the Shadow of the Hegemon, thanks to a tourist that had left it in the library of a hotel in Skiathos island. This book got me hooked, but it confused me also as I didn't know if I should start reading the next books or the previous ones.

The general pattern in the whole series is:

The beginning book is Ender's Game. Then we have two subcategories, one the Shadow series (which, with the exception of the first book, take place on earth and are more within military strategy) and one the Ender series (which take place in space and are more into new sci-fi ideas). Shadow series probably can be read from everyone, while I guess that the Ender series (especially from Speaker for the Dead onwards) would be read mainly from sci-fi fans.

Below are my comments for the books of the series, in the order I have read them and a marking (10 is the highest mark):

Shadow of the Hegemon: The first book I have read, and which I could not leave from my hands. I finished it in 2 days. It was fast paced action, very smart plot and after reading it I believed that Orson Scot Card (OSC) has invented/re-invented a new genre of literature. That of military strategy and adventure combined with brilliance/mind games and hidden portions of romance. Such books always existed but this seemed to be THE book. It was like the way Dan Brown re-invented books with trivials and puzzles, together with fast paced adventure. I strongly recommend it to everybody that likes such type of books. (mark: 10)

Shadow puppets: The sequel to the above. I found it interesting but somehow boring as the above story developed little and the focus was on the characters (maybe too much focus so that it seemed to me that it was slightly mumbling jumbling. Strategy, brilliance and adventure seemed to be very low here. I would not recommend it for anybody to read it in isolate, unfortunately you have to read it if you want to go to the next book. I really believe that OSC made a mistake here (deliberately or not) as this book should have been told in 50-60 pages and be included in the previous or the next book. (mark: 6 but you will read it because you will want to read Shadow of the Giant)

Shadow of the Giant: (see below)

Ender's game: A really great book to read, probably the best of the series, however, as I had read its sequels first, when I reached the 80% of this book, I had predicted the end. However, it's at the highest standards of sci-fi, military strategy, adventure, brilliant mind games and very good depth in the human aspect of the characters. In comparison to the shadow series, it is more "space" sci-fi, while shadow series have much lesser sci-fi elements and are more down to earth. (mark: 10)

Speaker for the dead: Another great book, but different style. Less adventure, more human aspect, more maturity. Brilliance yes, but not military, sci-fi yes (some great ideas) but not spaceship style. (Mark: 9)

Xenocide: A good sequel of the previous novel. In certain points more brilliant, in other sections more boring, however is again a very good sci-fi book. The only flaw in these series (Speker for the dead, Xenocide, Children of the mind) is the idea behind one of the alien species described which I found outrageously extreme, however if you ignore it becomes first class reading. (Mark: 9)

Children of the mind: I think that OSC has wrapped up his case pretty badly in that one. It's a fair book except the fact that I felt that OSC mumbles jumbles for one third of the novel not having decided how to end it. In other critiques I have found it described as nice approach to moral dilemmas, however, moral dilemma is when you describe it once and make your choice, while here the dilemma is repeated and repeated... I felt like I was watching a movie worth 10 oscars and the end did not worth to be included even in a cheap video movie. And again, many open ends at the end (for possible sequels). (Mark: 7 but you will read it as you will be hooked from the previous ones).

Ender's shadow: Having read Enders Game and Shadow of the Hegemon, I found this book probably the best of the series, which of course is my subjective preference. I could characterize it as probably the best book I have read ever! Not to repeat myself, it has all that Shadow of the Hegemon and Ender's Game have, and even more...(Mark: the absolute 10).

Shadow of the Giant: When I read shadow puppets, I said, "that's it, OSC has lost either his talent or his appetite for good writing...", so I was pretty unwilling to read it. Fortunately I decided to, as it proved to be a good one, were I believe that OSC has nicely wrapped up his story, with two small flaws.

* The one is described below (its end needed to be slightly more complete) and,

* The other is the fact that although he describes certain smart battles, he does not focus enough on them as it seems that he is in a hurry to wrap all things up. It had all elements to become a masterpiece but it ended up being a good to read book (Mark: 9)

In general, both series have three categories of good stuff:

1) Some great sci-fi ideas (battle room, battle games, fantasy game, ansible, aia, Jane, in/out travel, raman varelse etc)

2) Great military strategy, mind games etc combined with adventure

3) In certain books, depth of characters, moral dilemmas etc

And two main bad stuff:

1) Mumbling jumbling in certain books which was completely unnecessary (either OSC wanted just to produce and sell another title - see shadow puppets- or he could not decide how the story will continue-see last book of Ender series).

2) One of the alien species described in the Ender series was so too outrageous even for sci-fi that made it look ridiculous. The idea behind it was brilliant in sci-fi terms, but he could try a different living organism...

Finally, OSC has left open ends in both series (probably for next sequels), however I believe that there are two things missing. a) the story of the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, told in a metaphorical manner so it means much for humanity. b) In ancient theatre, a story should end in a way that brings "katharsis" to the story, and the souls of the readers. I believe that the end of the shadow of the giant may be smart for commercial purposes but it was very unfair to the reader as it did not bring full "katharsis".
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on October 28, 2011
Three months ago I was introduced to Orson Scott Card through his book Ender's Game (Ender, Book 1) Seeing how awesome his envisioning of modern technology (a lot of which have come true since the book was published) and study of human nature was, I eagerly jumped into the second book of the series, Speaker for the Dead (Ender, Book 2)

This book was even better!!

True, it was not as action backed as "Ender's Game" but nonetheless it was an amazing book that dove deep into the human behavior. How does one treat an alien race that is different than one's own? How about a human who is reacting out of guilt and secrecy? Can you learn to understand someone, even when they are `evil' and do bad things?

It was with great joy that I picked up the third book in the series, "Xenocide" (especially since book two ended before everything was resolved).

Sadly enough, I have to report that "Xenocide" failed to uphold the same standard as the first two... =(

Well, kind of... the first three-fourth of the book was fairly good as Card tried hard to explore how one could live side-by-side with aliens, who by their very existence, places your life in danger. He also explores the nature of life and what it means to be alive.

I grant you that these are not easy questions/topics to some grace must be given to Card for tackling such concepts. However I must say that Card ended up backing himself into a corner with tons of major problems for his characters that could not be solved easily...

So instead of letting them die or having them fail, he jumps the shark and solves 95% of the problems with one action.

[Spoiler Alert!]

Normally I let an author get away with as there are times when something has to give...yet... when Card has his characters recreating their bodies, figuring out faster-than-light travel, bring 3,000 year old dead people to life, and developing new forms of a virus by simply WISHING for it... sorry, I can't go there... that is a tad much for me.

True, he develops a huge `scientific' theory/argument for such wishing...but no...can't buy it. =?

Sorry, Mr. Card, but you lost me.
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VINE VOICEon April 16, 2003
"Xenocide" continues the compelling storyline begun in "Speaker for the Dead". Having violated the strict policy of the Starways Congress regarding interference with indigenous species, the human colony on the planet Lusitania has been targeted for dissolution. The added factor of the existence of the killer (and highly contagious) genetic virus, Descolada, on Lusitania has led the Congress to order to the planet be destroyed before the colonists or other indigenous life can leave and spread the virus elsewhere. On Lusitania, a group of colonists, led by Ender Wiggin and his adopted family, are in a race against time to find an antidote to the Descolada (not just a 'fix' like they are using currently) and find a way to stop the Fleet that is being sent to destroy the planet. The official full partnership between the 'piggies' species and the humans threatens to break apart under the stress of the events surrounding the Descolada and arrival of the Fleet.

"Xenocide" is, on may levels, as equally captivating as "Speaker for the Dead" because author Orson Scott Card focuses on what he does best, character development and character interactions. Such focus is what made "Speaker for the Dead" and "Ender's Game" spectacular novels and Nebula award winners. "Xenocide" keeps much of that momentum going. The politics on the planet among the species (the Buggers have also been reborn there) are quite compelling. The efforts of the high-minded members of the human and piggie species to prevent the ignition of a bloody civil war caused by ignorant members of both species is both harrowing and suspenseful. The events take place 30 years after "Speaker for the Dead" and Novinha's children are all grown now and play major roles in the resolution of this conflict. Seeing how they have evolved from the broken children when Ender first arrived in "Speaker..." is one of the more satisfying aspects of "Xenocide". The paths in life they have chosen are wholly believable and the reader can see that, without Ender's intercession decades earlier, these children might never had the opportunity to make the choices they make here.

This book is nearly 600 pages long, but powers forward at a rapid clip until about the last 100 pages. It is there that "Xenocide" goes on an existential path that would continue into, and plague, "Children of the Mind". Without revealing any plot details, it can be said that this literary choice of Card's dramatically slows the momentum created by the previous 2 1/2 books. Since it only occurs over the last 100 pages, it doesn't slow the reader down so much that they would be compelled to put the book down. It does, however, make reading the sequel, "Children of the Mind", more difficult.

Card seemingly wanted to explore a higher meaning in the overall story arc with this development. It just seems unnecessary because the character-driven stories he had told up to this point clearly revealed a greater meaning that just simply science fiction novels would. Complaints aside, "Xenocide" is still an excellent book and a good read for anyone who appreciated what "Speaker for the Dead" stood for.
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on March 1, 2002
I'm not really sure why Card called this book Xenocide. It sounds like the worst-of-the-worst Sci-Fi trash books. What this novel does, I feel, is take the themes alluded to in Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead and absolutely elevates them to a high philosophical debate.
Card, more than aptly, discusses: Sentient life, the human soul, genetic makeup vs. destiny, martyrdom, catholicism, and finally, and most poignantly, personal dichotomy. Ender, unlike his angelic sibling Valentine and his satanic brother Peter, is made up of a dual nature - like anyone. Card's none-too-subtle journey to the heart of this issue makes an utterly fascinating and insightful read.
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on December 4, 2009
Having loved Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead, I was looking forward to reading Xenocide. Although it is well written, I have to say the book was a disappointment. In his zeal to explore ethical, philosophical and moral issues, Card somehow forgot he was supposed to be writing a novel.

The fundamental problem with this book is that is was based on weak premises and unfounded assumptions which produced more errors in logic than the story could bear. The most glaring of these was that the descolada virus was sentient. The fact that a virus can change rapidly to adapt to new environments certainly is not a proof of sentience. Rapid adaptation is a feature of every virus, as well as most bacteria (which is why we need a different flu vaccine every year, and why so many bacteria are resistant to antibiotics). The moral "dilemma" of whether or not to alter/destroy the virus was a basically a straw man.

Logical inconsistencies were rife in this book. If, in fact, xenocide was universally considered morally reprehensible, then why was Lusitania established in the first place? Why take the risk of destroying the only other sentient species in the universe? And why blow up the whole planet? If the buggers can come up with a way to neutralize the descolada, then certainly humans can figure it out. (Or maybe the buggers can just tell the humans how to do it.) Why send a fleet anyhow, if only one MD device was required? Why create people with superior intelligence and then hobble them with OCD? (Superior intelligence does not imply a challenge to governing bodies. If anything, intellectuals pose less of a threat. They are too busy inventing the theory of relativity to overthrow governments.)

There was also an underlying assumption throughout this book that while gods did not exist, God did. In a sci-fi novel, assumptions need to be proven. (That's the "sci" part.) Card should have treated Catholicism exactly as he did Confucianism. (As a set of superstitious beliefs leading to social inequity.) Instead the existence of God was a given, and the spread of Christianity amongst an alien species was treated as unproblematic. (A highly questionable stance to take in a novel about ethics and morality.)

All of these errors, inconsistencies and assumptions might have been forgiven if the characters had been well played out. Unfortunately, Card utilized only two emotional modes for his characters--lofty philosophical and scientific exposition, or adolescent quarrels (regardless of the age of the characters). The relationship between Novinha and Ender was entirely unconvincing. And while Card introduces several potentially interesting characters--Plinkt, and Valentine's children--these mysteriously disappeared almost immediately after they were introduced. (Almost as an afterthought, Card mentions them again at the end of the book.)While the Chinese characters and the holdovers from previous novels (Valentine, Ender) managed to retain authenticity, the rest were no better than caricatures.

The only strength of this book lay in Card's marvelous ability to convey alien cultures. The description of the "buggers" was captivating. (I will never forget the image of white, viscous fluid dripping from the end of the hive queen's abdomen). Card does an equally convincing job of conveying the world of the piggies. Where he failed was in creating a believable Lusitanian culture. (Throwing in a lot of Portuguese did not suffice.) If the Lusitanians were supposed to be Brazilians (who are the warmest, friendliest people on earth), then why did they speak and act exactly like neurotic, self-absorbed Americans?

All in all, I wouldn't say this book was a complete waste of time. It was easy to read and entertaining in enough places to leave me with no regrets. However, I am not motivated to read the last book in the quartet. Card has wandered too far away from his commitment to provide readers with a credible novel.
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on April 6, 2000
Most people who have read "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" will like this novel, not for its content but because they love Ender. Card wrote Game as a stand alone novel and Speaker as the first of a trilogy, (he may not have meant to from the beginning, but that's how these books play out). Readers familiar to trilogies know that in most cases they follow a rigid pattern, 1) Setup, 2) bridge, 3) conflict and conclussion. Speaker set up the saga with more style than most trilogies, and is a great novel on its own. Xenocide is just a bridge which disappointed me, and from what I've seen from other reviews, quite a lot of people as well. I was expecting another great novel, but what I read had a "to be continued" feel.
The book is above average for a bridge or arc, which is usually a good thing. However, with our expectations so high from the first two books, this novel falls short of absolute brilliance, and is instead just a good read. We meet a supporting cast of new characters, some hateful and seemingly villianous, which is something new to the series. We are introduced to the dark side of Starways Congress who seem to act out of spite and anger for no real reason. This was the most troubling aspect of the book for me. The first books of the series gave us moral ambiguity and actions bourne of neccesity rather than evil. The story always gave us hope for the future, but the darkness introduced here dims that a bit.
The story still takes place on Ender's "home" world of Lusitania, where the three species are gearing up for the threat of destruction by Starways Congress. We still get the moral dillemas typical of the series, but they feel just a bit contrived at times. Ender's wife acts too standoffish to be true to life. One wonders how Ender ever fell in love with her, and stayed with her for so long. The Sci-fi/fantasy aspect of the book overtakes the human drama which made the series so great and feel so real to the readers. If you get through this book, the conclussion of the series waits on the other side in the novel "Children of the Mind", which gets a lot of the greatness back. If you've read the first two, stick with it. If you haven't read Ender before, please don't start here. If you start here, don't give up on it.
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on December 17, 2013
I am not a Card die hard fan so I have no special emotional attachment to his books. I thought Ender's Game was fun and better than I thought it would be, and the sequel was quite different but still interesting. This one was simply not very good. By now Ender is some kind of pushover, treated like dirt by his horrible wife (we still don't get why they got married in the first place frankly) and taking the backseat to the story. His step children seem to do a lot irrational, and right down stupid, stuff again for no apparent reason. The parallel story line on the planet of Path that seems to irritate several other readers wasn't too bad in itself, but the characters are so unpleasant that I often found myself hoping Starways Congress would just wipe them out already. I am a big fan of hard sci-fi so the worst part for me is the whole thing about philotes and the soul, which was much too New Age-y for me and reached its ridiculous height at the end (I will not spoil it) which made me groan and roll my eyes. I will not buy the rest of the books in the series, I am done with it.
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on November 15, 2004
I don't give poor reviews lightly, but this book was honestly a disappointing continuation of one of my favorite stories. It fails to stand anywhere near where "Ender's Game" and "Speaker for the Dead" rose. I admit that "Speaker" required a sequel, but this is not what I was hoping for. This book is too drawn out and far to slow to develop. Imagine taking the amount of plot content in "Speaker" and then spread that across three separate story lines. Then you have "Xenocide". Card's direction may have required some support from these other story lines, but the complexity that was beneficial to the previous novels causes this book to become slow and convoluted.

I give credit only because there are individual points of brilliance that dot this novel's landscape, but they are overshadowed by the fact that this story is meant to follow such excellent predecessors.
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