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Children of the Mind (Ender Quartet, Book 4)…
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Children of the Mind (Ender Quartet, Book 4) (original 1996; edition 2002)

by Orson Scott Card

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6,31554626 (3.53)141
Member:Qwubs
Title:Children of the Mind (Ender Quartet, Book 4)
Authors:Orson Scott Card
Info:Tor Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
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Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card (1996)

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English (52)  French (2)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
I know several readers, myself included, who were blown away by Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. They then found the sequel, Speaker for the Dead, to be equally as riveting and eagerly reached for Xenocide, book three in the series, with the highest of expectations--only to be slammed with disappointment. This otherwise serviceable book, with an original premise and interesting characters, crashes to an unsatisfying and confusing ending that combines the worst attributes of deus ex machina and sequel hooking. Back in the mid-90s, it seemed that only the most devoted of Ender fans dared to approach the fourth book, Children of the Mind. The rest of us avoided it like the descolada virus itself.

This situation may have changed over the ensuing decade as Card has published a number of prequel and sequel books in the Ender universe including a notable series about the life and times of Ender Wiggin's schoolmate, Bean. As the story world has expanded, characters have been fleshed out, political systems have been better defined, and the original quadrology has been reframed into a new context. Xenocide-burned readers may finally be ready to take tentative steps toward CotM--or at least that's my theory, after receiving an endorsement of the book from a friend who described it as "not as bad as everyone thought it would have to be."

So I read the book and it was, indeed, not as bad as everyone thought it would have to be--but it's no Ender's Game, either.

It helps to know that Xenocide and CotM were originally conceived as a single volume, which was divided in half when the page count climbed higher than the publisher was willing to accommodate. CotM's confusing and disjointed opening takes place only moments after Xenocide's confusing and disjointed ending, and neither book feels complete on its own. I'm sure the author did the best he could but the result still reads like a botched operation to separate conjoined twins.

CoTM starts in the middle of the action with no easy recap for those of us who haven't read the previous book in a while, so a better transition would have been appreciated. Perhaps something like I've done in this episode of Book Review Theater...



EXTERIOR - EXTRASOLAR PLANET WITH THREE MOONS IN AN ORANGE SKY, WHERE PEOPLE STROLL ALONG A BOARDWALK THAT SEPARATES A BEACH ON ONE SIDE FROM URBAN BLIGHT ON THE OTHER - LATE EVENING

A cardboard box appears from nowhere. Peter Wiggin and Si Wang-mu emerge, look around in confusion for a moment, and confront the first man passing by.

PETER: Excuse me, sir?

MAN: Yeah? Whatta you want?

PETER: I'm an extra-universally created simulation of Peter Wiggin, the late Hegemon of the Free People of Earth, under the spiritual control of Andrew "Ender" Wiggin who is and will remain, until his imminent death of old age, reviled and celebrated, respectively, as Xenocide and Speaker for the Dead.

WANG-MU: And I am Wang-mu, a former slave with artificially-enhanced intellectual capacity, ironically named after a Chinese goddess. Also ironically, the so-called free people of my society were in fact enslaved to outside powers by virtue of their genetically-crafted OCD tendencies while peasants and slaves like myself remained actually free.

PETER: With the aid of Jane, a unique [b:artificial intelligence|27543|Artificial Intelligence A Modern Approach (2nd Edition)|Stuart J. Russell|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1167881696s/27543.jpg|1362] originally created by an alien race that's falsely presumed to be extinct at the hands of my apparent younger brother and puppetmaster, we are travelling from Wang-Mu's home world--

WANG-MU: The Planet Where Everyone Is Chinese.

PETER: Right. From Wang-Mu's home world, The Planet Where Everyone is Chinese, we were meant to find The Planet Where Everyone Is A Pacific Islander by way of The Planet Where Everyone is Japanese.

WANG-MU (looks around): With my advanced intellect, I've determined that this is not any of those worlds.

MAN: Nah. This is The Planet Where Everyone Is From New Jersey. Got a problem with that?

PETER: Not at all, my hairy knuckle-dragging friend. It would seem that Jane is playing a practical joke on us, or perhaps manipulating our journey in the same way that everyone around us seems to be constantly manipulating everyone else in some way or other.

WANG-MU: Including ourselves.

PETER: I'm sorry for taking up your time, but we really must be going. A fleet is approaching The Planet Where Everyone is Brazilian with the intention of blowing the whole thing up, not knowing yet that a cure to the dreaded species-scrambling descolada virus has been found, or that their actions would mean genocide for the last remaining Buggers as well as the native Piggies and Jane herself--who is unique enough to be considered her own species. Did I mention that Jane has the ability to pop people in and out of the universe, allowing them to create impossible objects, bring people back from the dead, and cure brain damage or deformities of the body?

WANG-MU: Which is why we must prevent Congress from shutting Jane down by persuading some influential philosophers that the events of World War II back on Earth are still relevant in space so many thousands of years later.

Peter and Wang-mu step back into the cardboard box, which promptly vanishes.

MAN: What a couple of self-important jerks!

review theater>

Something like that would have helped a lot, although the premise does seem rather silly and far-fetched when you try to boil it down to a few short paragraphs of exposition. It also reveals a major weakness of the story world: the assumption that Earth would colonize new worlds on a nation-by-nation basis and that the resulting planetary cultures would not change or evolve noticeably from their progenitors. This detail seems glaringly unrealistic in light of Card's obsession with such anthropological details as food, architecture, and language.

Ender himself hardly appears in this book, and perhaps the most memorable character from Xenocide, OCD-laden genius Han Qing-jao, is missing entirely--only represented in CotM by tantalizing excerpts from her philosophical writings, which serve as thematic chapter headers. But Qing-jao's presence would perhaps have been redundant since she is far from the series's only deep-thinking philosopher and author of impactful works that have changed the lives of billions or trillions of people. In addition to Quing-jao, this would include Ender (author of a trilogy that has stayed continuously in print for over three thousand years), Valentine and Peter (who manipulated world governments through their pseudonymous writings as Demosthenes and Locke), Aimaina Hikari (whose works inspired attempted xenocide), Grace (whose writings inspired Hikari), Malu (whose works inspired Grace), and Plikt (who, as the speaker for Ender's death, has a lock on a future bestseller as well).

Only Ender's stepdaughter, Quara, seems to lack the bug for philosophizing and authorship, so of course the other characters use her as a punching bag for their verbal abuse--which highlights another annoyance I experienced with this book. Every scene is either a dramafest of angst and confrontation or an excuse for long philosophical soliloquies that usually include at least one Shakespeare quotation. Or often, both. Almost without exception, every philosophical theory presented in the book is then subsequently picked apart and discarded as childish and simplistic compared to the unexpressed deeper thoughts that all of our genius characters are keeping to themselves. This makes for one long, emotionally draining, and often pompous book.

Bottom Line: Every reader of thought-provoking science fiction, age 10 through 110, should pick up copies of Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead. My prior warning to avoid Xenocide is tempered somewhat, but anyone who continues onward in the series should read Xenocide and Children of the Mind together and be prepared for an exhausting and confusing ride. ( )
  tem2 | Jul 26, 2015 |
Look - Ender was quirky, but cute.

But the rest of the books are drivel.

A sure sign of a floundering author is when the rate of new unexpected inventions matches the rate of new unexpected crisis points.

Can't cure Malaria? We'll invent faster than light travel.

Can't fix hatred? We'll invent new physics that re-defines the soul.

Give me a break.

The book is choke full of "moral dilemmas", all clumsy and contrived, as if the author just discovered the concept of a dilemma and is out to prove he can make the biggest one. My dilemma is bigger than you dilemma!

But the point of a dilemma is that you have to CHOOSE. If you resolve it by inventing new physics that allows you to eat your cake and have it too, then you're not doing it right.

In the dictionary, under the definition of "deus ex machina", there should be a picture of this book series. ( )
  meekGee | Jul 6, 2015 |
I'm still enjoying the series...good writing and it works hard to tie up the ends of the last book and even gives some final conclusions (for Ender) to the original book too. I feel that the detailed writing related to the cultures was a little more than I needed but after reading the afterward I can see what influenced the author to write in such explicit detail. ( )
  gopfolk | Oct 20, 2014 |
Some very challenging and interesting ideas presented here. Conversations about Strangers, Friends, Souls, Edge and Center communities and the purpose of life.
A fitting end to the Ender Saga, though the books go on.
( )
  learn2laugh | Sep 14, 2014 |
While I'm hesitant to look at one book and say this is the best book I've ever read, I can never come up with an answer to the question "What book do you like more than Children of the Mind?" It has depth, it is bittersweet, it is perfection. ( )
  drhapgood | Jul 27, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Orson Scott Cardprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chambon, Jean-MarcTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Salwowski, MarkCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Si Wang-mu stepped forward.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812522397, Mass Market Paperback)

Children of the Mind, fourth in the Ender series, is the conclusion of the story begun in the third book, Xenocide. The author unravels Ender's life and reweaves the threads into unexpected new patterns, including an apparent reincarnation of his threatening older brother, Peter, not to mention another "sister" Valentine. Multiple storylines entwine, as the threat of the Lusitania-bound fleet looms ever nearer. The self-aware computer, Jane, who has always been more than she seemed, faces death at human hands even as she approaches godhood. At the same time, the characters hurry to investigate the origins of the descolada virus before they lose their ability to travel instantaneously between the stars. There is plenty of action and romance to season the text's analyses of Japanese culture and the flux and ebb of civilizations. But does the author really mean to imply that Ender's wife literally bores him to death? --Brooks Peck

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:41 -0400)

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The planet Lusitania is threatened with destruction by Starways Congress. With the help of the computer intelligence Jane, Ender must save the planet and its three species.

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