I like Science Fiction just fine but must not love it because there have been many years I didn’t read even a single SciFi title. I had read a few of the standards over the years without much prompting and recommend them all – Frank Herbert’s Dune Series, Philip Dick’s Valis Trilogy and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (became the movie Bladerunner), Asimov’s I, Robot, Ray Bradburry’s Farenheit 451, Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Arthur Clarke’s 2001: Space Odyssey, C.S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, and I’m sure others.
My son Merrick introduced me to Orson Scott Card and his child genius Andrew Wiggin – Ender – in Ender’s Game. A slow start – probably because of my own low expectations – and an ending that was so unexpected that it made me want to read the book again. Immediately. I’ll leave it at that so I don’t even stray towards a spoiler. My reading of preferred genres goes in streaks I admit, but I devoured all the books in Card’s series as quickly as I could get to them: Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, and I’m sure I’m leaving something out. (Thanks Merrick!)
Ender grows up in a home with a cruel older brother, Peter, and the love of his life, Valentine, his older sister and the only one who doesn’t seem to resent his brilliance. Card does have an ability to see the future – his description of communication over the Internet before Al Gore had the thing really up and going is amazing – and in a world of overpopulation Ender wasn’t even legally allowed to be born. Peter and Valentine are both eligible to be selected for Battle School but Peter’s anger turns to lethal hatred when it is Ender who is chosen to train as a fighter to repel a hostile alien forces’s next invasion.
My description may make this sound trite but the psychological, moral, and physical conflicts are brilliant and emotionally exquisite. [Note: The movie was made after I read the novel. It just didn’t capture the psychology of the book.]
Like Frank Herbert in the Dune books, as you read through Card’s series you find an author who doesn’t just create other settings or even worlds – but whole cosmologies complete with religions, races, histories, and complex moral dilemmas, including definitions of the soul and consciousness. (Yes, there are some slow sections, particularly in Xenocide, but the whole experience is more than satisfactory.)
Just a note or two about Card. He is a descendent of Brigham Young and graduated from BYU and the University of Utah, and did doctoral work at Notre Dame. He served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While passing through Salt Lake City on a Delta flight I saw that he has also written the novels Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel and Leah, which are known as the Women from Genesis Series. The Internet says he lives in North Carolina now. I don’t know anything about his ongoing personal religious life but would simply observe that as with other author’s from a high identity religious background, there is a discipline and training of thought that seems to spawn a counter-intuitive imaginative freedom with the ability to dream up huge, comprehensive, and interconnected realities as he’s done in his Andrew Wiggin novels.