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First Meetings In The Enderverse
Orson Scott Card
Orbit paperback £6.99

review by Debbie Moon

This volume collects four stories related to Card's most celebrated creation: the original, novella length, version of Ender's Game, two prequels, and a sequel.
   The first story, The Polish Boy, deals with Ender's father, John Paul, a barely tolerated seventh child in a world where most families are restricted to two. Already looking for the tactical genius they're going to need to defeat an alien enemy, government testers are sure they've found him - but how do you negotiate with a five-year-old upstart who's always several steps ahead of you? Maybe by giving him what he wants - but ensuring that he unwittingly gives you part of himself too.
   Teacher's Pest (the only previously unpublished story here) picks up the story when John Paul, now an American citizen nursing political rebellion beneath his new identity, meets Theresa Brown, a grad student teaching a course he doesn't even want to do. They hit it off immediately - but is this all part of a sinister plan, the payback John Paul's been expecting all his life?
   The Investment Counsellor bridges the gap between Ender's Game and its sequel, Speaker For The Dead. Stranded on a backwater planet by a tax problem, Ender is in danger of blackmail from the immigration official who's stumbled onto his real identity. His only hope of escaping that - and the black comedy of back taxes on a trust fund that's been maturing for three centuries - is to trust a mysterious entity called Jane...
   Ender's Game is without doubt one of the greatest SF novels ever written (if you haven't read it, do so immediately!), but it's hard to see who'd want the original novella when the far richer novel length version exists. Of the three remaining works, The Polish Boy is the best, detailing a friction between personal belief and the will of government that seems all too relevant, and touching again on Card's real genius: his ability to capture the blunt simplicity of a child struggling against the duplicitous adult world.
   Teacher's Pest raises some interesting philosophical points, but its setting is just a little too ordinary and its scope too narrow to really tell us anything important about this world. The Investment Counsellor, the only truly disappointing piece here, has the feel of an episode invented to tie-up loose ends - and since when have a few loose ends been a bad thing? Maybe Mr Card was just having a bad day with his tax return...
   If you're an Ender completist, you'll want this volume. And why not? The stories are all well written and perfectly enjoyable. But the more a writer strip-mines his greatest works, the more he falls victim to diminishing artistic returns. As much as we love him, maybe it's time to let sleeping xenocides lie...
First Meetings In The Enderverse

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