A Tunnel in the Sky

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The Ender & Homecoming Series
by Orson Scott Card

Reviewed by Padre Mellyrn
Posted September 7, 2003

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There are in fact more than three series that Card has produced, but these are the ones with which I am familiar - The "Ender" series, the "Homecoming" series, and the "Tales of Alvin Maker" series. There are other books by him, though I have not seen them myself. I have read the first two series and am starting on the third now, so in that light I will speak to the first two. "Ender" and "Homecoming," are of two completely separate issues; in the first series we are talking about 3,000 years of history, not including the first 2,000 that we already know of. The Ender series consists of (at this time) six books: Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, A War of Gifts and Ender in Exile.

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[Editor's note: These were later sequeled by the Shadow Saga, Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets and Shadow of the Giant - Galen.]

In general, while normally I would be turned off by the heavy religious influence, of constant references to "GOD" or the "creator," Orson Scott Card has managed to produce the stories in such a way that you can not only relate to the characters, but not be offended by the proselytizing of some of them. It becomes the character, not the author, since we also see that some of the other characters in the book are no less disgusted sometimes with the person doing the preaching. In other words, there is a balance of characters.

The books themselves are not the classic sci-fi of the Heinlein and Asimov days of hard rockets and evil scientists; that is, he does not dwell on the aspects of how the science works. These books are more on the Fantasy side of the line, where the society may be something as far flung as "a hundred worlds in league with each other" to one world only, but a society that is not here and now and related by history, except in the most cursory of fashions.

The Ender series deals with the science of politics and war, something that is not an exacting science as we know, but in this world he has managed to make it look like this is so. The heros of the story are very intelligent to the point of genius. In each story at least one of the heros and one of the antagonists are children; they are under the age of 18. Even when the series continues the life of Ender as he spans a 3,000 year chronological existence (through the use of relativity), there are other children who enter the picture. The nice thing is that there is no one real hero, but as in real life there are many heros and villains - though also as in real life, the people in the story tend to "turn to the one person" to either heap blame or praise as they see fit. Also in the books, when he deals with the military he has managed to capture the feel of "life as soldier." The first book brought to mind boot camp so many times, I had to stop and look around to make sure that I wasn’t back in my bunk at Orlando Fl, waiting for the CC to call "poptall."

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The Homecoming series includes The Memory of Earth, The Call of Earth, The Ships of Earth, Earthfall, and Earthborn. This series deals not with the broad political spectrum and war of all peoples, so much as it deals with the internal aspects of the family. We see brother against brother, parents against children, and cousin against cousin. And as in real life, the allegiances are made, broken and remade, sometimes very swiftly, but the underlying person is not changed. If one has declared an undying hate, he or she is more than likely to keep it, even when acting in concert with the very person that they have just sworn to kill. Here however we do not have a huge spectrum of worlds and people, but one world (not even the Earth at that in the beginning), and how a family travels "home to Earth" to start anew the human race, and then later dealing with the others.

The one thing that has been very consistent about the whole series is the human factor. These are people that I would expect to meet on the streets of today, someone who is not so one dimensional that they are either a saint or a devil; these are not superheros and supervillians of the comix. They are more the heros and villains of every day life, who have had extraordinary events thrust upon them. He also manages to put the feel of "hatred, prejudice, loathing and discrimination" right next to the feelings of "love, honor and commitment" and show us that they can be in all people at all times, the difference is only in who the feelings are directed at, and who is doing the feeling.

So it is no surprise to find that these books are more popular with the fantasy type people than the hard core sci-fi type. For someone who is interested in alternative ideals of how a society and people would function under the conditions of space travel, with all its own problems of relativity and such these are good series. I recommend that one start with either Ender's Game (though this is not necessary, as the books all stand alone), or The Memory of Earth. In the Homecoming series, while it is not vital to do so, if you don’t there will be missing the interesting action and reaction of the people that you won’t want to miss.

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As I said earlier, I have just begun the "Alvin Maker" series, which consists of Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman, Heartfire and The Crystal City. And again, Card has produced many more books, but I have not had a chance to even see them in stores, let alone browse or read them, but it is a testament to both the quality and popularity of the books that all of these are still in print.

Related Links:
Galen's reviews of Ender's Game & Speaker for the Dead
Orson Scott Card's Official Website
His bibliography at fantasticfiction.com


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Orson Scott Card

Ender Saga

Shadow Saga


Alvin Maker

2 Hugos
2 Nebulas
1 World Fantasy

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