Sunday, June 22, 2014

Speaker for the Dead, chapter eighteen, in which Card hurriedly scrawls To Be Continued across the page

I don't see any useful way of splitting this chapter up, and practically nothing actually happens, so we're just going to go for a huge sprint to the end.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel, because the tunnel is on fire.

(Content: ableism, incest, sexualisation of minors, misogyny.  Fun content: Stephen Hawking's wikipedia biography tells this book's story better than it does.)

Speaker for the Dead: p. 356--382
Chapter Eighteen: The Hive Queen

The final intro-excerpt is from the Speaker for the Dead's latest publication, The Life of Human.  It's a fairly straightforward depiction of life inside the mothertree, drinking sap and occasionally making a dash for the light when the tree opens, until one day he's fast enough to make it through and discovers there is an entire new world out there, transitioning from the first life to the second life.  There's nothing particularly super-empath about this section, so I assume the magic words have to come in later (unless this is another case of Ender just intuiting information rather than asking the Little Ones what it's like inside the mothertree, or asking them to relay the words of Human's tree).

What does get me is that this is another case of a Miraculously Brilliant and Heartbreaking publication from someone only naming themselves Speaker for the Dead, and it's got to be a matter of public record that the only Speaker on Lusitania is Andrew Wiggin, and maybe someone might take another crack at piecing together the way all three of the great Speaker texts were anonymously published on planets where a guy named Andrew Wiggin lived, and the first such Andrew Wiggins were the brother of Peter the Hegemon and of Valentine who was Demosthenes and maybe could a historian connect some dots please.  (It's presumably a retcon, but according to the Shadow series, everyone found out who Locke and Demosthenes were within a couple of years of Ender and Valentine leaving Earth.)

We return to Miro, whose malice towards science has been turned back around on him, because he rapidly heals from all temporary damage but also rapidly runs into a layer of permanent damage that Dr Navio can do nothing to address, presumably because he's run out of anti-witch salt.  So, in three days Miro can sort of walk, sort of talk, like "a very healthy man who is a hundred years old", but he's going to stay that way forever.  Science.  (I'm not sure who Navio's reference point is; my grandmother is ninety-nine (and a half) and while she won't be running any marathons, she likes going for walks, she's as sharp-minded and articulate as anyone I've ever met, and for her birthday her friends got her a personalised billiard cue because she's a pool shark.  So his idea of 'very healthy for 100' seems off, to me.)

There's a nice big heap of disability tragedy porn as everyone thinks about how lucky he is not to be bedridden for the rest of his life, how awful he feels listening to his own voice slurring, how he understands why none of them want to stay home with him now that he doesn't need constant attention, and he doesn't want them to stay either; he wants to be out asking the Little Ones direct questions at last.  There's no actual explanation for why he can't do that--he's at least partly mobile, and they should be able to create some sweet mechanised wheelchairs in the future, not to mention speech-generating devices that could help with his intelligibility (he could probably even use his own voice, given all the audio notes they've saved).

Speaker was written and published in the mid-1980s, pretty much exactly the same time that Stephen Hawking was publishing A Brief History of Time and also got his first speech-generator equipment.  (I strongly recommend reading up on Hawking; his life story hits a lot of the themes that this book goes for, loss and recovery and incomparable brilliance and bringing enlightenment to the masses and complicated marriage dynamics, but without the huge shovelfuls of racism and colonialist apologism.)  I don't know if Card was making any intentional reference, or if he had any particular interest in Hawking's work, but I feel like the publication of mass-market science by a man with significant motor and verbal disabilities should probably have made it easy to find out what the cutting edge of assistive devices looks like and try extrapolating that three thousand years into the future.  My point is that Miro's life here doesn't suck because he's disabled now; Miro's life sucks because Card and all of his characters have no interest in helping Miro maintain any connections to his family, job, or lifestyle.

Card is at least upfront about some of this--Miro relays questions to Ouanda for her to ask the Little Ones, but apparently Ouanda doesn't value her colleague now that they're not going to bang, soshe gets direct answers to his questions and leaves them at that rather than ask follow-ups or probe issues.  For that matter, the Little Ones have been running around Milagre for years even when it was illegal; why aren't any of them just coming to see Miro at home and chat for a few hours?

Miro is still creepy as hell himself, since privately in his own mind he still wants to run away with Ouanda and live in the woods and Lannister it up, but he knows that she is "a believer, a belonger. She couldn't possibly violate the only universal human law."  I am deeply distressed that Miro casts 'not wanting to bone your sibling' as the product only of bowing to popular belief and not, like, a reasonable reaction to a messed-up hypothetical.  I don't think peer pressure is the issue here.  (I'm always unsettled when people talk about morality like it's the result of popular vote or only external sources, as in that old favourite 'how can you be moral without God', and I'm just saying that the main places I hear this concept come from are conservative Christians and that Miro is our only confirmed atheist in the cast.)

In a neapolitan twist of horror, Miro compares his situation to that of his mother, since Novinha and Libo boned even though it was against the rules (extramarital affairs are apparently just like incest), but concedes that there is a difference (yay) because Libo was able-bodied and "not this useless carcass" (goddammit).

Enough of Miro.  Ouanda's helping the Little Ones develop phonetic alphabets for Males' and Wives' languages,Quim is trying to figure out how to translate the gospels, and Ender and some construction workers are colonising the hell out of them by installing plumbing, computers, teaching them more agriculture, and trying to domesticate cabra to pull plows.  (Apparently they can have a computer terminal with full galactic library access but a mechanical plow is out of the question.)
At the same time, Ender was trying to keep them self-sufficient, inventive, resourceful. The dazlle of electricity would make myths that would spread through the world from tribe to tribe, but it would be no more than rumor for many, many years. It was the wooden plow, the scythe, the harrow, the amaranth seed that would make the real changes, that would allow piggy population to increase tenfold wherever they went.
Misogyny Update: medical intervention to allow mothers to survive to adulthood is disgusting colonialist meddling that might completely overturn their society in unpredictable ways, but technological intervention to increase their total population by 1000% is just neighbourly.

Ela is frankensteining away in her lab, creating anti-Descolada plants, animals, and insects from Earth roots, because clearly what this fragile ecosystem characterised by unprecedentedly weird and unspeakably fast mutation really needs is a bunch of foreign species introduced in rapid succession--I mean, they managed to dodge that amaranth had the potential to choke out literally all other vegetation on the planet, so clearly there's no risk making dozens of new species intended to neutralise the infection that is the foundation of all plant, animal, and insect reproduction in the world.  Novinha, for her part, is working specifically on creating something to let the hive queen and the formics resist the Descolada, which sounds borderline impossible, so I'm going to guess it'll take seven weeks.

More disgusting ableism through Miro, who considers himself "less human than the piggies were [....] he was varelse now".  Remember when this book started and I thought the Hierarchy of Exclusion was sort of adorably gratuitous and illustrative of Card's ego?  I hate it.  I hate it so much.  It has never once been actually used to bring someone closer together, to say 'you think these people are incomprehensible but you just don't understand them'; its sole purpose is voting people out of personhood.

One day Miro finds that he's accidentally somehow cut through multiple layers of security into Ouanda's confidential science files, but rather than admit it, he just steers the conversation towards the same subjects, and they talk a little more like old times, about actual science.  Then the computer starts feeding him everyone's files (except Ender), and becomes intuitive to his commands rather than needing exact typing every time.  When he tries to tell the mayor, Ender shows up instead and says it's not a program helping him, but a person, an impossibly fast person with very few friends.
"Not human," said Miro. 
"Raman," said Ender. "More human than most humans."
What the hell does that mean?  How are we grading humanness in this galaxy?  By my tally, here is our current in-universe ranking of humanity from most-human to least:

  • Ender Wiggin
  • People Ender Wiggin likes and/or has claimed ownership of
  • The immortal consciousness of the internet
  • Practically everyone else
  • Pig-shaped alien genius-savages who turn into trees when you cut them open (or are devoured by their young)
  • Bug-shaped alien psychics with absolute control over billions of drone-bodies they birthed themselves
  • People with disabilities
Miro snarks that he doesn't want a companion or a pet, Ender snaps at him not to be a jackass and to show her absolute trust and loyalty, because her only other friend once showed her an hour's thoughtless disloyalty and things were never the same again after that.  Miro realises that Ender is passing a dear friend over to him, and suddenly the whole thing gains a new level of creepy; a man giving ownership of a woman to another, younger man.  Not sold on the creepy?  Miro turns back to the terminal when Ender leaves, and there's a hologram:
She was small, sitting on a stool, leaning against a holographic wall. She was not beautiful. Not ugly, either. Her face had character. Her eyes were haunting, innocent, sad. Her mouth delicate, about to smile, about to weep. Her clothing seemed veil-like, insubstantial, and yet instead of being provocative, it revealed a sort of innocence, a girlish, small-breasted body, the hands clasped lightly in her lap, her legs childishly parted with the toes pointing inward. She could have been sitting on a teeter-totter in a playground. Or on the edge of her lover's bed.

Jane is smart enough to first make it clear that she's ungropeable, and Miro pauses to think about how no one will ever sleep with him because he's gross now.  She goes on about all she sees and hears in the galaxy, and Miro admits that he wants to leave Lusitania, and there's a bunch of ironic flirtation because I guess that's the only way a boy and a three-thousand-year-old philotic consciousness containing the knowledge of all humanity which is currently projecting itself in the ghostly holographic shape of a girl can really get to know each other.

Elsewhere, Ender and Olhado go exploring--he lets Olhado drive the shuttle, presumably because there are no pilots on Lusitania and also Card was exhausted after naming all those other characters.  (Plus Olhado can plug his eye into the computer and, I don't know, pilot with his mind or something; it's not clear.)  They're surveying for a spot to release the hive queen.  We get a quick breakdown of Ela's findings, which all just validate her initial guesses: land life on Lusitania consists of reeds/flies, riverbank grass/snakes, grass/goats, vines/birds, vines/worms, bushes/bugs, and trees/Little Ones.
That was the list, the whole list of surface animals and plants of Lusitania. Under water there were many, many more. But the Descolada had left Lusitania monotonous. [....] Lusitania, like Trondheim, was one of the rare worlds that was dominated by a single motif instead of displaying the whole symphony of possibility. [....] Lusitania's climate and soil cried out a welcome to the oncoming plow, the excavator's pick, the mason's trowel. Bring me to life, it said.
I don't even know what to say to that; apparently bringing landscape to life means plowing fields clear, digging up the rocks you like best, stacking them into huge buildings, and letting loose a scourge of your favourite alien critters that have been genetically engineered to kill the molecular symbiote of the entire world.
Ender did not understand that he loved this place because it was as devastated and barren as his own life, stripped and distorted in his childhood by events every bit as terrible, on a small scale, as the Descolada had been to this world. [....] He fit this place as if he had planned it. The boy who walked beside him through the grama felt like his true son, as if he had known the boy from infancy.
Ender's really an excellent poster boy for appropriation and colonisation; all he has to do is assert how strongly he feels something and suddenly 'I was severely bullied' is indistinguishable from 'mass extinction-level event', and 'I really like this kid I've hung out with for a few weeks' means he can just assert legitimate fatherhood (without asking Olhado).  I don't mean to suggest that bullying is a minor issue, or that it's not wonderful to find a person and immediately feel a comfortable, trusting bond, but the parade of Ender declaring his personal experiences and feeling equal to everything and everyone else he meets is goddamn exhausting.

They find a spot for the hive queen, and Jane reports (businesslike) that Novinha's ready with daisies that the formics can drink from to ward off the Descolada.  Ender is sad that she doesn't joke with him anymore, but reflects instead on his new family and how much he loves his almost-kids and how sad he is that Miro's life is irrevocably stolen from him and no one can do anything to help.  Olhado comes up with a solution: literally ship him away for a while, Mazer-Rackham-style, to bring him back in time for the Evacuation Fleet to arrive.  (Olhado says Rackham only experienced two years, while Ender's Game said eight, but, again, Card fucking hates calendars.)
"Miro's the smartest person in Lusitania, and the best. He doesn't get mad, you know. Even in the worst of times with Father. Marcão. Sorry, I still call him Father." 
"That's all right. In many ways he was."
Card's genetic-continuity fetish also means that it's magnanimous to declare that the person who was actually around his kids and to some degree helped raise them might have some claim to fatherhood comparable to the man who secretly provided a gamete and then never spoke to them again if he could avoid it.  Also, the kid whose most noteworthy recent decision was to cross an agony field with only the protection of alien grasses because he was afraid he wasn't going to be allowed to marry his sister--this is the guy you want making decisions in thirty years, but you also want to make sure he only has a couple of years' time to reflect and mature before he gets those responsibilities?  This sounds like a good idea... why?

As they return home, Ender admits that he is the Xenocide, and Olhado is amused because, in his estimation, saying the Speaker was the Devil made for good sermons, but if The BISHOP had said Ender was the Xenocide the people of Lusitania would have murdered him on the spot.
"Why don't you now?" 
"We know you now. That makes all the difference, doesn't it? Even Quim doesn't hate you now. When you really know somebody, you can't hate them."
Apparently, when you really know somebody, anything terrible they say and do ceases to be terrible?
"Or maybe it's just that you can't really know them until you stop hating them." 
"Is that a circular paradox? Dom Cristão says that most truth can only be expressed in circular paradoxes."
This chapter was written specifically to cause me pain.
"It's just cause and effect. We never can sort them out. Science refuses to admit any cause except first cause--knock down one domino, the one next to it also falls. But when it comes to human beings, the only type of cause that matters is final cause, the purpose. What a person had in mind. Once you understand what people really want, you can't hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart."
This would be a vastly more compelling argument to me if I felt that I had to be absolutely pure in order to draw any kind of moral conclusion.  Suffice to say that I don't.  I mean, I don't think hatred is inherently productive or valuable either, but I don't feel any particular need to try to identify with the perspective of people who hate me for whatever reason, philosophy or politics or religion or orientation.  And as I think we've seen, the stuff that Ender thinks is a universal desire includes 'expanding to engulf the whole of existence', so I don't think he's a good source on universal human nature either.

(As a side note, Ender states that even if he had known what he was doing in the final battle, he would still have destroyed the formic homeworld, thus undermining the central conceit of the book and all the vast secrecy around his training.  Olhado asks if she might not now get revenge; Ender says he's as sure of it as he is of everything, and admits he's gambling everyone's lives on it without so much as asking them.)

The next day, Valentine calls, twenty-two years older than when Ender last saw her.  She's coming to Lusitania--in the face of panic and anti-Little-One propaganda and the threat of the Descolada, she's revived Demosthenes, found out the fleet has Doctor Device, and they're leaving now, with all their electronic tracks covered by someone called Jane.  She, and Jakt, and their three kids, and Plikt.  Ender volunteers to send Miro to meet them and "make the last week of your voyage very educational", because apparently he figures Miro's two-decades-out-of-date information will be more valuable than, say, stopping to pick up an ansible transmission with a few years' worth of scientific notes and journal updates from the entire family?  He doesn't bother to ask Miro; Jane has already convinced him, and showed him the recording of Ender and Valentine's discussion, because privacy is still forbidden.  Ender is unsettled just to realise that Jane is now Miro's bestie more than his own, which is at least a taste of actually empathising with all the people whose privacy Ender has trampled every day for the last couple of decades.

Before he goes, Miro wants to know properly why Pipo and Libo died.  Ender says that it was an honor, but more to honor Leaf-eater and Mandachuva, and the only reason that the humans died instead was the Little One's I-kill-you-or-you-kill-me honor system.  Libo brought them the amaranth, but Leaf-eater convinced the Wives to allow a huge generation to be born, gambling that there would be food waiting for them when they left the tree.  (In this description, the amaranth wasn't the first technology that the xenologers gave the Little Ones--from flipping back through the book, it is possible that the first thing was the process for neutralising the cyanide in merdona root, then a bunch of other stuff like bows and arrows, then amaranth, then they killed him.)  For advocating this and being proven right, Leaf-eater was given the honor of getting sliced, but Libo refused.  Okay.  Sure.

But then we go back to Pipo and it's worse than ever.  Ender reports that Pipo's great discovery was that the plague that killed humans was naturally part of the Little Ones, "that their bodies could handle transformations that killed us".  Mandachuva's great achievement was concluding that humans were not gods, just an older and more experienced race with advanced tech.  So he was granted slicing, and asked Pipo to do it, and when he refused, tried to make Pipo's body undergo a transformation which they had literally just been told was fatal to humans.

God, I'm glad this book is almost over.
"There are worse reasons to die [...] than to die because you cannot bear to kill." 
"What about someone," said Miro, "who can't kill, and can't die, and can't live, either?" 
"Don't deceive yourself," said Ender. "You'll do all three someday."
How the hell is 'you'll kill someone someday' supposed to be heartening?

Miro leaves the next day, and no one likes hanging around at home for some weeks because they feel his absence.  Ender reflects on his own parents and suspects that they didn't hurt so much when he left, or want him back.
He already loved another man's children more than his parents had loved their own child. Well, he'd get fit revenge for their neglect of him. He'd show them, three thousand years later, how a father should behave. Bishop Peregrino married them in his chambers.
Not included: 'But Ender did not feel any hatred toward his parents, because deep inside he could find his own desire to abandon his children to a brutal military school and never see them again'.

Having reviewed all the science available, Ender lived with the Little Ones for a week while writing the Life of Human, and got reviews and input from Leaf-eater and Mandachuva (and they were to be planted within "a hand of hands of days" from Human's planting, so apparently all of this has happened in less than 25 or so days, unless the Little Ones have more than five fingers, meaning Novinha solved the Descolada for the formics in maybe two weeks, as opposed to my estimate of seven).  He invites everyone he likes out to Human's sapling, now three metres tall, and reads it to them--it takes less than an hour, and I wonder what all he has to say after the first five pages of larval form--a lot of interactions with the xenologers and blazed-out stumbling around Milagre in the middle of the night, I guess?
"Speaker," said the Bishop, "almost thou persuadest me to become a humanist."
I still don't get this.  First, why would understanding biology and alien cultures cause the Bishop (living next to aliens for decades) to abandon Catholicism in favour of a label that specifically excludes aliens?  Is he taking a subtle shot at Ender?  I think he's taking a shot at Ender and no one else is catching on.  I love meta-Bishop.
"This was why I called you here," said Novinha. "I dreamed once of writing this book.  But you had to write it."
Ender says she was important, both her scientific work and the way her family 'made him whole', thus making it appropriately clear that women support men who are responsible for actually achieving the things women aspire to.

Jane spams the galaxy with the book, and with the text of the treaty, and the images of Human being converted into a tree.  Most people think it's some kind of fake, or believe it but still think the Little Ones are too alien and terrible, but some buy into it completely and start protesting, start calling the fleet a Second Xenocide, and trouble spreads across the galaxy.  I wonder if maybe they should have tried doing that before they launched Miro into space in a time-dilation process that everyone compares to death.

And then they place the hive queen's cocoon in the ground in the spot Ender chose, next to some anti-Descolada daisies and a dead cabra, and fly off, and Ender sobs in his seat as he picks up on the philotic overflow of the queen's joy as she breaks free of the cocoon, feeds, lays the first dozen eggs, and starts to grow.

Next week: We interrogate the introduction to figure out what the hell was up with this book.


  1. [spoiler for Xenocide and Children of the Mind]
    Here is another difference between editions. In the original edition, the sentence Bishop Peregrino married them in his chambers is followed with: By Novinha’s calculations, she was still young enough to have another six children, if they hurried. They set at the task with a will.. Presumably, this was omitted because Ender and Novinha never do have any children together.

  2. So, in three days Miro can sort of walk, sort of talk, like "a very healthy man who is a hundred years old", but he's going to stay that way forever. Science.

    No part of this makes any sense. From the unexplained permanent damage to the lack of any kind of assistive technologies - on a planet that can make camera eyes for kids, it's just a pile of fail. There's no worldbuilding consistency or attempt to make coherent medical science here. None.

    (Also, the oldest marathon runner ran his last marathon last year at 101. CNN article on Fauja Singh Also, have an 104 year old swimmer A man who may be the oldest still licensed and active pilot in the US I'd pay good money for them - and your grandmother - and all the other 99+ year olds we can find to go have a word with Card. Except he'd just say the prejudice is Dr. Navios' and you can't blame him for it... and then Card would become the first person to get his ass kicked by a bunch of centenarians.)

    Ela is frankensteining away in her lab, creating anti-Descolada plants, animals, and insects from Earth roots

    Where is she getting her base materials!? The Earth ones, that is. I could maybe believe that they had some seeds to work with, but animals? insects!? Did they bring some kind of DNA laboratory with them? Is this like the replicators from Star Trek, only with living organisms? WTF!?

    (And why do we have magic plant/animal/insect/whatnot creation technology but they can do less for Miro than Earth circa mid 1980s could do? Card, you are well into negative points when it comes to your worldbuilding. Please hand in your Hugo and Nebula awards so that I can chuck them at the people you bribed to give them to you in the first place.)

    the Hierarchy of Exclusion ...sole purpose is voting people out of personhood

    Pretty sure that's working as intended, whatever the pretty language claimed.

    "Under water there were many, many more."

    Why? Why wouldn't the Descolada be just as effective under water? I can believe there'd be a few more plant/animals in the water, but this does make it sound like the water stops it somehow. I really don't get how. Not when it effects every living thing on land and a few in freshwater.

    "You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart" So you can fear what is reflected in your own heart, but not hate it? Righty then. That makes good sense.

  3. I think "revenge on my dead parents" has its own exhibit in the Museum of Bad Reasons to Marry Someone.

  4. Dang it. I hate it when discus apparently randomly eats comments. Especially when they're lengthy ones. *glares at discus*

  5. I kind of combined them into one. Better than having two comments that cover the same ground.

  6. Only the one I deleted now shows up as guest. *kicks Disqus* Behave!

  7. That struck me as a totally gratuitous snipe at his parents, or possibly Card's reminding us of how much Ender suffered, so much more than two people who were eviscerated while they were still alive and died in agony. Their sufferings were nothing to Ender's, because Ender's parents sent him to Battle School, which he wanted (which, if I understood the world-building in the first book, was supposed to be this wonderful honor everybody wanted). Please!

  8. I don't really understand why Card decided to disable Miro. His accident served some narrative purpose, but I'm kind of at a loss as to what purpose his being disabled serves - beyond as a mouthpiece for Card's belief that disabled people are less than human and don't have lives worth living. I'd like to think it was supposed to serve some other purpose, but I'm not seeing it.

    Granted, I don't expect everything in a story to be plot relevant or serve some purpose, since that can lead to a whole different set of problematic stuff. But this mostly seems to serve to make the worldbuilding make negative sense. I suppose it does also thoroughly break up Miro and Ouanda, but if Card felt that was the only way to keep them from boning, that's just horrifying on a whole other bunch of levels.

  9. He had a disabled son, so sometimes he'll have a disabled character in his stories, but usually it seems to be someone pining about how much less of a person they are. I am sorry, but disability doesn't make you less of a human being. Those kind of attitudes make it even harder to be disabled.

  10. And I thought this couldn't get any worse. I think that's come up on here before and I just didn't want to remember it because that's... well, that makes this one of those despicable things where knowing a person's intention does not frikin' help!

    I just hope his son never read any of his disabled characters.

  11. He's not alive anymore, but Folk of the Fringe featured a disabled guy like Hawkings who spent most of the time pining over being disabled. Frustrating.

  12. That hadn't occurred to me and it is a brilliant point.

  13. Hehehehehe. Carmen Miranda. LOL LOL LOL

  14. Jane must leave because Ender can only have one adult female (or adult female appearing entity) in his life at a time. One only wonders what will happen to the marriage when Valentine arrives.

    I suspect that Olhado got cool robot eyes simply because they are cool robot eyes. That was his distinct character trait. I doubt that Card ever considered Olhado as disabled the way he thinks of Miro. Olhado is a sci fi character with robot parts. Miro is the characterization of all of Card's horrible ideas about disability.

  15. That's the thing. Ender's "empathy" seems to boil down to the same reasoning that supervillains' Not So Different speeches run on. And the same confusion over what actually matters. To use examples from the book, he convinced the people of Milagre that they weren't so different from Marcos, because Marcos' abuse of Novinha was (supposedly) due to his desire for her love. Everyone wants to be loved, therefor, the same desire is in all hearts. Except that's skipping straight over the abuse. Yes, maybe Ender's right about everyone wanting to be loved, but most people would not abuse someone to try to get their love. Which means that the desire to commit abuse has to be a separate desire. But that won't work for his villain speech. I mean empathy.

    Wait, actually, this is even worse than that. What Ender had in mind when he killed the Formics was failing the simulation. He wasn't trying to save Earth. He wasn't trying trying to beat the Formics. He was trying to beat Mazer so he could quit. I mean, yes, knowing what was going on for Ender does make him sympathetic, but one of the reasons it makes him sympathetic is that he didn't know what he was actually doing. He wasn't even doing it as a plan to win the simulation. He did it because he no longer wanted to be the savior of mankind. The whole thing Space Whale War Crimes Excuse. His situation was artificially created to make him a tool of people who knew damn well what they were doing. It's their motives that need looking at, not the motives of a seriously manipulated and mistreated eleven year old.

    (And I still have no idea why anyone would currently hate him for something that happened three thousand years ago. Other than the Hive Queen, of course. I get why she would hate him. The colonists, not so much. Card just wants to excuse Ender yet again, for reasons known only to Card himself.)

    Ugh, this book is such an incoherent mess.

  16. Novinha gets all jealous of Jane so of course he has to give her up to save his marriage -_-

  17. Indeed. Never read Ender in Exile unless you want to suffer. I don't even understand why he would do the same thing KNOWING THAT THE BUGGERS ARE NOT A THREAT! If the dude has so much empathy, couldn't he figure out what they want and how to reach out to them?

    Guh. If I am this dippy as a writer, feel free to send me suzumebatchi to punish me for it but male ones and not female ones because that would be cruel.

    Plus amusing someone ISN'T LOVING AT ALL! I don't care what this warped world things. Love isn't inflicting pain on another human being. Unless they want it for some odd reason and it's totally consensual but other than that beating people is really mean!

  18. To put "famous killer from 3000 years ago" in context:
    - Julius Caesar (2000 years)
    - Alexander the Great (2300 years)
    - Nebuchadnezzar (2600 years)

    - Sargon of Akkad (4300 years)

  19. Oh my god I never knew about that. What. What the fuck that is awful. I have no words.

  20. (spoilers) I'm pretty sure that exact thing happens in one of the sequels, actually... fuck everything.

  21. Adding to that whole basket of WTF, Ender's parents explicitly did not send him to battle school willingly. This is expanded on in the Shadow series but even in Ender's Game it is made clear that parents of children identified as battle school candidates were really not given a choice in the matter. Which is a whole new level of horrifying now that I think about it. Ender's birth was basically reproductive coercion by the government.

  22. So, in this book, exactly what did we accomplish? The last book had the extermination of a species by child soldiers. This one is... the inability of anyone to do proper science of any sort, resulting in a crisis with no cause and the set-up for some inter-species conflict when the Formics (who are insects) meet the Little Ones (who are trees) and find that their respective species do not form symbiotic relationships after all. And then there are the humans, who can turn famously destructive when they feel threatened. I feel like we're being set up for a big conflict payoff, except I have both eyes firmly fixed on the rug, waiting for Card to clumsily try to misdirect me and pull on it.

  23. That part's omitted now? Really? Huh.

  24. The Homecoming series (Mormons in Spaaaaaaace) had a decent character with severe mobility issues. As far as I can recall, he doesn't feel terrible about his lot in life, and the main protagonist at one point calls him "the best of us." So there's that, I guess.

  25. There's a fair bit of dialogue given over to explaining how Miro is "the best of us" as well, despite his massive failures of science, problem-solving, foresight, and not-wanting-to-bang-his-sister. That would be a problem if Card cared about showing instead of telling, but he could maybe try harder rather than just "He's disabled and he's The Best Of Us, job done, A+ representation of quality characters with disabilities".

  26. All OSC does is tell and not show! It makes me crazy! GRRRR!

  27. It did. And Ender was like, I will totally rip Jane out of my ear even though she is "dying" and just hoe with my wife at a nunnery/ monastery.

  28. Stupid parents in Ender and Exile couldn't take a month off to visit him. I can see where he is coming from, but to marry a woman you barely know and have to deal with her frustrating children for that is a bad idea.

  29. I really can't wait to hear about the introduction. This book couldn't have been written without Ender's Game preceding it we have been told, and I can't for the life of me figure why. I ask myself what if the main character had not been Ender, and what if the Hive Queen and Jane were not in this book at all. How materially would those things have affected the narrative?

  30. Well, of course. You think Card, with his bizarre attitudes toward having children, would risk implying that Ender the Perfect Specimen of Humanity is infertile? Ahahahahaha.

  31. Yeah, the sainted disabled person is a problematic trope all on it's own. It rather sounds as though Card is trying to have it both ways with Miro. Miro's all "woe is me, I am no longer human" and everyone else is "He's The Best of Us (TM)!" I may barf.

  32. *headdesk*

    Man, I'm glad his super power isn't supposed to be empathy or anything.

  33. Maybe we'd actually have a coherent plot and people not being artificially and unbelievably incompetent. In other words, not tying this book to Ender's Game could only improve it. Yay. *cries*

  34. Oh noes! You made an analogy involving Sargon I, so now we have automatically lost the argument with Card! (Or do threads about Ender the Xenocide come pre-Godwinned?)

  35. I am deeply distressed that Miro casts 'not wanting to bone your sibling' as the product only of bowing to popular belief

    Really? If not for the inconsistent technology* and the implied Catholic restrictions, seems like they would have no trouble at all guaranteeing healthy children (supposing they still want to have children). And they weren't raised as siblings** - what's the problem here?

    *Given the inconsistency, maybe they already expected many of their children to die.
    **Actually, did Libo agree with this reasoning? He encouraged them to imitate their biological father and mother.

  36. Should read: Miro's mother.

  37. In Card World? Better infertile than (gasp) being able to have children and deliberately choosing not to.

    'sides, it could always be Novinha's issue. Past success in the fertility department doesn't mean someone can't develop problems later. I like to think her ovaries went on strike after Ender made his remarks about "plowing her fields" or what the hell ever.

  38. Pretty much. And everyone is trying to manipulate each other while trying to act like they are not manipulating each other. Such good values. Such fun. -_-

    Also I dislike retconning. BE CONSISTENT!

  39. Two things of many will I refute from this chapter: the uselessness of cripples [Word used deliberately--
    keep reading] and the 'understanding someone means you love them".

    There is a really good blog called "Smart Ass Cripple" out there. The eponymous cripple (he calls himself that) talks about his life as a quadriplegic. He uses humour, satire, and (occasionally) rage to make his point: Cripples are Humans.

    As for 'understanding someone means you love them', I suggest you read HHhH, which is about Reinhart Heydrich (Himmler's right-hand man, and architect of the Final Solution) and his assassins. At the end of the book, you have a good understanding as to what made Heydrich tick, but he remains one of the most evil men the twentieth century produced. And he wasn't born evil! He chose evil of his own will.

    In the words of the philosopher Wildman, "This is just such a big steaming pile of WTF.

  40. I'd say the problem is that Ouanda doesn't want to, and Miro can't accept this as being a free and eminently understandable choice on her part. Not a healthy response to a breakup, really.

  41. Oh, I should probably note that the graphic novel skips pretty much ALL of this. It jumps from Ender planting Human to Ender and Olhado burying the Hive Queen egg. We do see Little Ones tending fields, there's a line of dialogue that Jane is helping Miro, and a line of dialogue about Novinha possibly being in love with Ender, but that's all that remains of this terribly creepy chapter.

  42. "I would rather tell you that your body would be as it was before you climbed the fence, that you would have all the vigor and control of a twenty-year-old. But I'm very glad that I don't have to tell you that you will be bedridden all your life, diapered and catheterized, able to do nothing more than listen to soft music and wonder where your body went."

    Is that for real the dialogue from the book? Because it sounds like something out of a parody soap opera. That's absurd! And horrible! I have had doctors tell me shitty, shitty things, but that's just too ludicrous to put in a serious book. When people come in for check ups, does he tell them "Hey, good news, we don't have to amputate all your limbs! :D" or "Your blood work came back, I'm afraid you're diabetic. But, hey, good news, at least you're not terminally ill with cancer, leprosy, and Bothan Nether Rot, and doomed to slowly dissolve into a pile of cancerous goo! :D"

    Card seems to believe that getting old is equivalent to contracting motor neuron disease, for some reason.

    Incidentally, I don't think Card knows the difference between taming and domestication.

    Card may be aware of the word "research," but all evidence strongly suggests he doesn't know what it means.

    Forget the ecosystem; this is a suicidal move for humans themselves. If you cover the planet with organisms that synthesize Descolada blockers, you create a perfect environment for Descolada to evolve blocker resistance. After which it will resume wiping out everything non-native again, humans included.

    I'm tempted to call that a happy ending. But then I remember that not all of the colonists are horrible, not to mention the matter of the Hive Queen.

    Um, anti-Little-One propaganda from where? Who's capable of distributing propaganda around the galaxy, against Jane's will, and why would they want to? I thought Congress wanted to evacuate the colony quietly?

    Clearly, it's coming um... Yeah, I got nothin'.

    Card seems to have forgotten that Jane is the internet.

  43. But then I remember that not all of the colonists are horrible, not to mention the matter of the Hive Queen.

    In fairness, pretty much the only reason the Hive Queen is less horrible than most characters in this book is that she's currently an inanimate object. Considering that the rest of the Formics almost oops'ed humanity to death and then lost a pointless war of extinction to a preteen, I don't have high hopes for her post-hatching future.

  44. But her children aren't frustrating anymore! Ender visited for five minutes and fixed them all, remember? And that's perfectly realistic, because Ender's just that wonderful.

  45. I have to object to the notion of "To be continued." That implies the story will continue, and that in turn implies we had a story in the first place.

  46. I maintain that Game had to be written so that Card could use the smart-bullied-kid-becomes-hero narrative trap to get people to care about Ender as a character. He doesn't do anything to make us care about him in Speaker. He's just riding on any previously accrued affection.

  47. Here's a thought, after three thousand years you'd think living to a hundred wouldn't even be particularly remarkable.