Sep 20, 2011

[Books] Children of the Mind

Children of the MindGetting to this final book in the Ender Quartet (or whatever we're supposed to call this series) was quite the struggle. The religious rhetoric had really started to get to me and the lack of truly interesting or innovative character development had been weighing heavily on me in previous books. Then there was the added fun of dealing with the insanity what was the world of Path and the effort to keep the misguided Path citizens relevant to the story.

It was a bit of a stretch, but they sort of managed this in the end. Of course we're not plagued with the continued involvement of Path in the story, or at least one of its citizens.

The ending of the last book left me feeling that Card wasn't quite ready to leave his primary characters behind. As much as I didn't quite like a lot of the new people he had introduced as this series has progressed, I don't think rebooting things and returning to a prior state was a good solution either. And yet there it was and we as readers just had to grin and bear it as the story meandered on with its additional baggage.

So this book left an odd taste in my mouth given the diverse players thrown into the mix.

Children of the Mind is the fourth published book in the Enderverse as written by Orson Scott Card. Most of the lore around book indicate it was originally meant to be part of Xenocide until it had been spun-off into its own title.

Over the course of events covered in Xenocide, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin accidentally created two new beings when he and a few others took the first experimental trip to the "outside" of space with the help of Jane, the sentient computer presence. The two beings resolved themselves to be parts of Andrew's tortured psyche formed over the years - one manifesting as his brother Peter and the other as his sister Jane, but both as they were children. At the same time, the once disfigured Miro managed to create a new body for himself, but allowing his old damaged self to wither away into nothing as a result.

With a new means of traveling through space established, Jane has been hard at work transporting various colony teams consisting of humans, Formics and Pequeninos to new worlds. The Starways Congress fleet is still on its way with the MD Device that it had been ordered to use against the world of Lusitania. And the planned shut-down of the entire ansible network in order to destroy Jane is set to proceed on schedule as well.

Thus it's up to the rest of the group to see the plans through as Jane begins to quite literally lose her mind. The new Peter together with Wang-Mu of Path have been dispatched with the mission of figuring out a way to convince the Starways Congress to cancel the xenocide order given to the Lusitania Fleet. Meanwhile Miro and young Jane continue to search for new colony worlds while also trying to find clues of the origins of the Descolada.

But where does this leave Ender? Well, Andrew is busy trying to make amends with his wife, who has joined the religious order known as the Children of the mind. And thus he essentially bows out of the main story as the world seems to be coming to an end while he just becomes a sap of a man. While to some extent I can appreciate this striking demonstration of his love and devotion for Novinha, but this seemed totally against his character in light of the greater issues at stake. One could argue that the creation of his Peter and Val extensions helped push this decision along, but it still didn't seem right to me.

And then the rest of the book dealt with the characters obsessing over the problems that they faced while making little progress in terms of solutions. Oh boo, Jane is going to die. Oh crap, the fleet is on its way to destroy Lusitania. Loop ad infinitum. And then a bit more whining and moaning for good measure.

Plus we had the strange and at times disturbing relationships forming between many of the characters. Of course we had Miro sort of falling for Young Val, and yet still harboring feelings for Jane. We had Peter and Wang-Mu is this rather sick love-hate relationship that is even more dysfunctional than Amber and Mike's relationship on Shortpacked! - to cite a geekier example / analogy.

I have to admit that my displeasure with Xenocide probably carried over / affected Children of the Mind and thus making the book almost doomed to failure. Even after waiting a few weeks to let the story sink in and hopefully come up with a more objective perspective, I still feel like the book was a waste of effort. Orson Scott Card just wanted to play around with his version of Japanese philosophy given he had already had his time with the Chinese in the last book. He had a particular philosophical concept to put forward regarding edge nations and the like, which I suppose was decent but didn't quite work within the confines of the story.

In the end, I was just glad that I had finally finished this book. Perhaps I'll find more enjoyment when I go into the Shadow books and follow Bean around for a change. Still the book manages to crawl past the finish line with 1.5 relatively interesting conversations between the Hive Queen and Human (the tree) out of a possible 5.

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