Children of the Mind

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True confession: I had a very tough time reading this book. Usually when reading a novel I can stick to a reasonable schedule of somewhere around 20-30 pages a day; more than that for page-turners. This was not a page-turner. This was a nap-inducer. A play-solitaire-insteader. A go-for-a-nice-walker. It took me about a month to get through its 370 pages.

A brief description: Starways Congress has sent a fleet armed with the "Little Doctor", a molecular-disruption device, to destroy the assumed threat from an alien virus on the lovely planet of Lusitania. Ender and his extended family need to thwart this plan, but things are complicated. Their powerful ally, Jane, a hyper-intelligence based on the instantaneous galaxy-spanning "ansible" network, is under threat: Starways plans to shut down the network and purge Jane from the nodes.

What's wrong? Well, first: it's installment number four in Orson Scott Card's Ender series. It's been awhile since I read the first three (Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, and Xenocide); in fact, it may have been in the previous century. (I don't keep records going that far back.)

And Children of the Mind takes up where Xenocide left off, and assumes you remember a lot about the series, more than I actually did. Card says in the backmatter that he originally envisioned Xenocide and Children of the Mind as a single novel. That would have worked better for me.

Worse: the talkaction ratio is very very high, especially in the first half of the book. Oh, goodness gracious, do people yammer on. They discuss, insult, muse, observe, joke (but not often enough), confess, … Much involves the philosophical implications of their situation, most notably the plasticity of their identities brought about by their assumed technology; that's not as inherently interesting to the reader as it is to the characters. Eventually things start happening: somewhere around page 200 or so. Things get easier from there.

Since this book was written in 2002, Card has written seven more books in the Ender universe. More power to him. But I think I'll not get around to reading them.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 4:38 AM EDT