Children of the Mind – Ender’s Quartet #4

Subtitle: I am so confused!

Is the brain a map that leads down twisted paths and into hidden corners? Then when we die, the map is lost but perhaps some explorer could wander through that strange landscape and find out the hiding places of our misplaced memories.

We made it! This week’s review marks the end of January sci-fi month. I have discovered that I am a major fan of the Ender’s Quartet (or, well…the first 3 books at least), and also that I am not as smart as I thought I was.

There is even less I can talk about in this book without spoiling anything, so…let’s just get to it!

Jane, the computer entity thingy that made us all question the nature of humanity in the last book, is spiriting humans, buggers and pequininos alike to different planets to colonize them. Peter, Ender’s mind creation #1, and Si Wang-Mu (the servant from last book) have the mission to stop the fleet sent to destroy planet Brazil. Valentine, Ender’s mind creation #2, and Miro, Ender’s stepson, lead to colonization mission.
Ender’s wife, Novinha, lives in a cloister to avoid him – and he gives up everything to join her. Everybody else? Busy shouting and “falling in love”. We get a nice glimpse of planet Polynesia and planet Japan – but it would be too much to talk about.

So let’s just move on to the spoilers! It’s the usual – spoilers are over after the coming picture! See you there!

Jane, Valentine and Miro find out that the virus on planet Brazil was a message from a different alien species, and eventually find the planet it came from. They find out that this species sends messages through molecules. And…essentially that’s it? Although this could have been very cool, it’s essentially the backdrop for the romantic relationships in this novel..

Ugh. So Si Wang-Mu and Peter fall in love. Why? Well, because the story says so. Miro (Ender’s eldest adoptive son) also falls in love with 1) Valentine, and then with 2) Jane, and both of them with him. Because of course they do. Even though 1) does not have a soul of her own, but instead has half of Miro’s stepdad’s soul (ew), and 2) is a god. Oh yeah – JANE IS a GOD. This is both kind of cool, as she was “born” (in a way), during the series and the nature of her being is very interesting and keeps you guessing and thinking – what does it mean to be human? What is a being without a body?

Anyways, when Ender created young Valentine and Peter out of his mind at the end of the last book (just roll with it), he split his soul to control these bodies (again..just roll with it). Apparently the body he is the least interested in starts to die – ouch. First it’s Valentine, which is just mean, and eventually it’s his old body. Which actually dies. And then… Jane, whose networks are getting shut off (i.e. she’s dying too), is searching for a vessel to hold her, which turns out to be Valentine. Ender goes into Peter’s body.

So let’s go into this a bit. Peter and Si Wang-Mu had a kind of relationship-ish thing going on, and now Ender lives in Peter’s body. He doesn’t have his Ender memories anymore, but he is definitely someone else. And she just rolls with it and they get married?? Also they save planet Brazil from the fleet that came to destroy them, so hurrah!
Likewise, Valentine and Miro had a thing. To get her to give her body up for Jane, one of the most painful scenes happens – Miro “has to” make her want to die. It is brutal, and mean, and then her soul leaves to join in Peter’s body, and her body gets taken by Jane. Sure, Miro has some issues with it, but he just goes with it too and they get married. Oh and both marriages happen at the same time right after Ender’s funeral.

This doesn’t work. It’s too confusing, it’s too wrong in its implications about relationships. Although a lot (a lot) of words are used to talk about the ethical and moral issues concerning these relationships, it never really feels like the characters are ever genuinely even considering that these people are now different. Yes, they have the same body, but their soul, their nature, is different. The characters not having any problem with this makes it seem like they are in love with the bodies, not the souls. And that is sad – and not what the author was going for (to be fair).

Confused Rey

I don’t really know how to feel about this book you guys. On the one hand, it does have high stakes with the whole imminent destruction of a planet and 3 species and on a personal scale for the characters – trying to save Jane’s and Ender’s lives etc. On the other hand…it’s all very confusing and scattered, and the stakes don’t lead to suspense. There are many characters, as there were in the previous book, but now they’re all embarking on their own plots. They are also all very emotional. The characters have all gone through a lot, and although the stakes don’t translate to the reader, apparently the characters are feeling them very harshly, as they all turned into massive jerks. It seems nobody can keep their cool, or essentially their character from the past 3 books. Everybody is mean, selfish, shouty, and seems to have forgotten how people actually talk (Have I lost my mind? Or have I, finally, found my heart?). Too quote: “too much plot, too much emotion, too much of everything“.

In summary, I feel a bit sad with this conclusion of the series. Firstly, because that means it’s over (yes, I know there’s other books, but this is the end of the official quartet!). And secondly…because this is it. Don’t get it wrong, this is not a bad novel. It’s just also not good. Not good enough to close off such an amazing series, at least.

Ah, what tea goes with confusion?

To me, tea is stimulating (yay! cafeïne!), comforting, soothing, warming – and no, not just your stomach. Although tea can definitely go with texts that are active, and/or take a while to wrap yourself around, I’m not sure if it can go with confusion. The characters are nasty, the dialogue is super awkward, the plots are confusing – and a bit far fetched.

The tea would be either awkward too, which would be unpleasant to drink, or too together to fit with the text. And although I enjoy a complex cuppa, drinking something that goes with “confusing” would be experience I am not exactly waiting for. Also, this book is the first one so far that has taken me around a month to read. And there ain’t no cup of tea that lasts that long. So here’s to being spontaneous and breaking with the norm – no tea here today!

Ender's Quartet.jpg

Let’s not end this month on a low note. This quartet is brilliant, even if the plot was lost in the last book. Let’s focus on the positives when we round it up here, before taking off into Chrestomanci Februari!

  • The writing is very gripping, especially in Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead
  • The philosophical issues are built up subtly and with a lot of grace over 3 novels
  • It makes you think!
  • The Quartet is very understanding and instructive of human nature
  • It’s so very touching you guys, planet China will make you cry
  • It’s the sci-fi Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit!

This is it, you guys, time to take off our space helmets and settle back down in real life. Before we take off on a magical trip to pre-Hogwarts!

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