Orson Scott Card,
First Meetings in Ender's Universe
(Tor, 2004)

Ender's Game, its three sequels and its other companion novels arguably constitute Orson Scott Card's most popular work. In a not-too-distant future, Earth is united in a war with an alien civilization, with humanity's continued existence at stake. Ender Wiggin, a brilliant child, becomes the savior of humanity in a rather odd manner. The next book, Speaker for the Dead, takes Ender's story on a daring and drastically different direction (and to summarize that would take up entirely too much room in this review).

The aptly-named First Meetings has two stories set prior to Ender's Game, one story occurring after Speaker for the Dead and the original novella version of "Ender's Game."

In "The Polish Boy," we are introduced to the Wieczoreks, a noncompliant Catholic family in Poland, whose youngest son John Paul is discovered by Battle School teachers to be a genius. In "Teacher's Pest," John Paul (with his Americanized last name Wiggin), now a cocky university student, encounters Theresa Brown, a teaching assistant who will be his future wife. "The Investment Counselor" picks up with Ender on his 20th birthday, coming to terms with paying taxes, and introduces his future artificial intelligence companion Jane. Other familiar characters also feature prominently in these stories, specifically Battle School's Captain Graff and Ender's sister Valentine.

This book includes the novella version of "Ender's Game," originally printed in Analog magazine in 1977. Those that have already read the novel should be interested in seeing the key elements of the novella that served as the outline for the later expanded/elaborated story in the novel, especially the sequences with Mazer Rackham and Bean.

This book also contains a reader's guide offering suggestions for writing and research activities as well as questions to generate further discussions about the themes of the stories. It's a great feature that hopefully is utilized in high school literature classes.

The universe that Card created for Ender is rich and vivid, especially in its handling of political and religious themes. Card is adept at writing easily-accessible stories with investable characters with realistic and distinguishable dialogue. Often the characters' conversations and discussions are equally engaging and enrapturing as the plot. First Meetings is an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the "Enderverse," but also serves as a fill-in-the-blanks treat for longtime fans.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

17 November 2007

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