From the meaning of life the universe and everything on up


A frustrating disappointment from a beloved author. A glorious revelation from a writer I've only known by reputation. An okay book from a famous author. And a book I'm not going to talk about. Let's get started.

045) Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card, finished June 10

In the afterword, Card spends a lot of ink talking about how rushed this book was. Now granted, his rhetoric tries to emphasize that thanks to a lot of awesome people a book he could be proud of was the result of this rush job, but that seems like a distractor. This book was a rushjob and it shows.

In some respects, Ender in Exile is nothing more than an extended epilogue---a seeming attempt to tie up loose ends in Ender's Game and the Shadow series with some fun story mixed in for leaven.

But even worse than the tying-up of loose ends, Ender in Exile is guilty of the epiloguey crime of Making Sure the Stupid Audience Doesn't Miss All These Important Themes I the Author Wish to Teach Them. And that is just obnoxious.

This sin is mostly committed in a bunch of overlong letters (mostly prefacing chapters as we've seen in previous books) as one character or another gives us, the dense readership, lessons in the importance of monogamy, the roles of fathers and mothers, etc. Or, given how dense we are, the letters also provide the opportunity for characters to not only spell out philosophy, but also to sum up The Plot To This Point in case we haven't been able to connect the dots ourselves. This is infuriating.

Speaking of philosophy though, the book also lets various characters shoot wise phrases at us. This is something that drove me nuts about Shadow Puppets as well (easily the weakest of the other Shadow books --- and the first two had been unendingly brilliant!); that Card has apparently reached a point where his desire to preach overcomes his desire to tell his story makes me sad.

But of course this also fits in with an even larger philosophy that is treated bludgeoning clarity in Exile: Great Man Theory. If one takes this book as philosophical tract (and that's easier to do than to take it as a novel), then it is an episodic proof of the theory. History happens because some really smart people made it happen.

This is all but spelled out at the end of the penultimate chapter (reproduced here with spoiler-causing details removed:

    "How can I undo this?" . . .
    "You can't. . . . If you hadn't . . . somebody else would have. . . . It would have happened without you."
    "But it didn't happen without me . . . ."
See what I mean? History doesn't happen without a few smart people making it happen. Good or bad, things of significance only happen when geniuses are around.

And part of the book can be interpreted as comedic episodes which exist purely to let stupid people stand next to smart people thus demonstrating their stupidity. It gets tiresome, this parade of genius and the stupids they must outsmart.

And then there are the characters whose main purpose seems to be either to overexplain former books' loose ends or to provide future sequel opportunities.


When Card is doing his best work, he's one of the best writers in the English language.

And now I know he's capable of opening a book with clunky, emotionless, expository dialogue, and continuing to the end with mere moments of entertainment hidden within philosophical tract. It's rather depressing.

But fans should still read it. I haven't finished a book this quickly in a long time. Even though I was frustrated and disappointed throughout, I still had to keep reading. So there's that.

But if you're looking to read a Card book this year, I suggest revisiting Ender's Game. All the cool kids are doing it.

eleven days (although on the first day I read one page and the next six I read zero)


044) Writings from The New Yorker 1927-1976 by E.B. White (edited by Rebecca M. Dale), finished June 7

This book is entering the rare collection of books Worthy for Permanent Inclusion on the Nightstand. A book made of bitesize pieces of joy and beauty and capable of being read over and over without becoming dull. This book can be read in sips (many of the selections are but a paragraph or two) or in great long draughts and enjoyed either way. This book makes an excellent friend and travel companion. Buy it.

Seriously. This books so filled with bon mots you'll be smacking strangers demanding they listen to this! because man alive but this White fellow knows his way around a sentence!

Don't deny yourself this experience.

long time --- maybe eight months?


043) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished May 31

Not at all difficult to see why this book was a big deal in 1969. A sexless alien society receives a representative from our sexist worlds. And while the underlying ideas are still striking, it's also true that many of the books details have not aged well. In just forty years we've moved farther from 1969 than Le Guin expected would happen in over twenty-five hundred years.

My other large complaint about the book is the way it cobbles together primary documents to tell its story. I've nothing against the technique itself (it's as old as the novel as an artform), but she uses Estraven's diary as a way to pass through long boring stretches and to provide us with some philosophy. Not that there's anything wrong with that! Her sin is in making the diary entries drag. They get, you see, boring. And that's not okay.

Other than that, the story's pretty good. It uses a lot of tropes that have become a bit tired (I'm guessing they weren't in 1969 as the novel won both the Hugo and the Nebula, but since there are rather obvious echoes of Asimov's Foundation books written in the '40s and '50s) so I have to recommend getting to the books early in your specfic reading career.

The real question to answer in this review though is will I read more books in the Hainish cycle?

I think I will. At least one more. And then I'll decide whether to read the rest.

under two weeks


042) Unnamed book by unnamed client (MS POLICY),
finished May 27


Previously in 2011 . . . . :

041) Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
040) Scott Pilgrim Versus The Unverse by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 14
039) Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O'Malley, finished May 13
037) The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse, finished May 11
036) Scott Pilgrim Versus The World by Bryan Lee O'Malley
035) Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley
034) The Complete Peanuts 1975-1976 by Charles M. Schulz, finished May 1
033) Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli finished approximately April 27

032) Golden Gate by Seth Vikram, finished April 20

031) Batman: Year 100 by Paul Pope, finished April 18
030) The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby, finished April 9
029) iZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred, finished April 2
028) A Sense of Order and Other Stories by Jack Harrell, finished April 1
027) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, finished March 30

026) The Black Dogs by Ian McEwan, finished March 21

025) Stitches by David Small, finished March 20
024) Arkham Asylum: Madness by Sam Kieth, finished January 19 or 20
023) Hamlet by William Shakespeare, finished March 18

022) Red Rocket 7 by Mike Allred, finished March 10
021) Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3 by Jake Parker, finished March 10

020) The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill, finished February 28

019) Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew, finished February 21
018) Redcoat by Kohl Glass (MS POLICY), finished February 18

017) Best American Comics 2010 edited by Neil Gaiman, finished February 12
016) Little Bee by Chris Cleave, finished February 10
015) Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, finished February 2
014) Cursed Pirate Girl: The Collected Edition Vol. I by Jeremy Bastian, finished January 31

013) Sweet Tooth: In Captivity by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
012) Sweet Tooth: Out of the Woods by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
011) Essex County: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire, finished January 30
010) Essex County: Ghost Stories by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29
009) Essex County: Tales from the Farm by Jeff Lemire, finished January 29

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27

007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2

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