Top critical review
Science Fiction Became Mysticism
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 20, 2014
Xenocide is book three in the Ender's Game quintet. Ender is in his sixties now, has a family and is a respected member of the community. He is still on the planet Lusitania and the perils that the Lusitanians were facing in book 2 (Speaker for the Dead or SftD for short) have intensified in Xenocide. Xenocide gave us some things that SftD didn't that made it better and a few things that made it worse. Xenocide had more science fiction, more dire circumstances and less of Ender's infallibility.
I did not like SftD and the way Xenocide started it seemed that I would equally dislike it. By the end of Xenocide I marginally appreciated it more than SftD. Xenocide has more science fiction than SftD, which is good... until it wasn't. Orson went too deep with the science fiction. He started dabbling into concepts so far out there and so esoteric that it became cumbersome to read. Orson introduced us to the ansible (instantaneous communications) and relativistic speed (traveling near light speed) in Ender's Game. Both ideas were science fiction, but both concepts he sufficed with stating that not many knew how it worked, they just knew it worked. It was a perfectly acceptable explanation. Most of us don't know how our T.V. works, we just know it works. Well, in Xenocide he attempts to explain many science fiction theories and occurrences, some within the realm of possibility and some not so much so. It was some of those scientific and philosophical conversations that lost me. Maybe that's an indication of my own weak intellect, but I prefer to think not. I toiled to keep up with talk of philotes, philotic connections, InSpace, OutSpace, and other concepts.
All of the scientific talk was centered around rescuing Lusitania from it's dire situation. There was more drama and more conflict in Xenocide than there was in SftD which was a plus. But, again, there was too much. Ender and the Lusitanians were in an impossible situation. The Starways Fleet was coming with the M.D. Device which meant certain annihilation once it arrived. The Piggies wanted to leave the planet with the Descolada virus within them which meant certain annihilation for mankind. The scientists on Lusitania wanted to transform or kill the Descolada virus which would mean certain annihilation for the Piggies. Jane, the omnipresent computer program, was facing being discovered which meant certain annihilation for her. And, as a breather, there were some people on the planet Path that had a genetic defect that needed to be fixed.
Let's recap: annihilation, annihilation, annihilation, genetic defect. Do Piggies die, do humans die, or is Lusitania wiped out? What to choose? It was almost as bad as the movies in which the protagonist is hopelessly doomed. It was at this point that the science fiction became more mysticism.
Xenocide is a 600 page bridge from book two to book four. 600 pages of which at least 150 could have been deleted. Orson tied in another planet and another people that he clumsily connected to the plight of Lusitania. The converging stories, as they would be, eventually connected in the most curious fashion. I got the impression that he wanted to write a separate story but didn't think it could stand on its own so he added it to Xenocide. As boring as the parallel story began, it was somewhat interesting towards the end and far more believable than a lot of other events that were going on. Still, I saw it as largely unnecessary and adding too much undesirable content to a story which I was struggling to like as it was.
Xenocide ultimately brings forth many quandaries that can make for great discussions. The characters are very clearly defined and hold hard and fast positions on various sides of the myriad of issues. Sure, each of them tries too hard to sound wise and prophetic, which only causes me to dislike them more, but whatever opinion you hold about the political, scientific, social and religious conundrums the Lusitanians face there is a character that you will side with. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, Ender included, until the end. But the book isn't readable because of the likeability of characters or even a real deference to their peril. The book is readable because--even though the events take place on a remote planet with a small population of people and aliens, even though I didn't like any of the characters and some I wished would have been summarily executed, even though I didn't like the metaphysical route the book took--"Xenocide" will give you a lot to talk about.