My take on Orson Scott Card

My general opinion on Card is that his earlier stuff is better. I find that these days, he gets too preachy and philosophical (if you can call it that) in his writing for my taste. Give me straight-up storytelling without the moralizing, please.

My favorites:

Folk of the Fringe

I really liked his take on the post-apocalyptic world, and the Mormon religion’s place in it. The best stories (it’s a book of short stories) were the first (the name escapes me now), Pageant Wagon and America, all of which were based on intriguing ideas, well-developed and just plain enjoyable to read.

Rebekah

I set out to dislike this one; I’m really not one who likes “retelling” of Biblical stories. But the storyteller I like in Card came out and he told a really good story about a strong woman and the choices she makes in her life. It’s a really good book. I’d like the chance to read Sarah and Leah and Rebekah, but as the library here doesn’t have them, I’ll have to track down someone who does.

Ender’s Game

It was more violent than I remembered, but it’s still an excellent science fiction story. Though Speaker for the Dead (posted here) is the better book.

Ones that are just “okay” (not bad, but not great):

Enchantment

An interesting take on Sleeping Beauty, though I was often frustrated with the storytelling. (I often found myself yelling at the book to get back to the story and stop the moralizing!)

Ender’s Shadow

This was fascinating, not because it was well-written (Card’s writing has gotten overly prolific as he’s aged) but because it was a different take on an already told story. It was worth it to read just to get another “perspective” on Ender and his whole saga. A good companion book to Ender’s Game.

Shadow of the Hedgemon

A good book, if you don’t mind it not being about Peter Wiggin. Card doesn’t moralize as much as he usually does and the way Bean goes about rescuing Petra I found quite fascinating.

Ones I wouldn’t read again:

Shadow Puppets

There was too much moralizing not enough storytelling. And the story that was told wasn’t interesting.

Xenocide

It needs to be read, if only to finish off the Ender story. Otherwise, it has no use. I didn’t even bother re-reading Children of the Mind to confirm I hated it when it first came out.

(I think there’s a general trend here… his series tend to deteriorate; the latter books are generally worse than the earlier ones.)

I have read the first three books of the Alvin Maker series, but it’s been a while. I remember liking them, but since the library here doesn’t have them, I haven’t had the chance to re-read them and see if I still think they’re worth the time. I have also read — and would recommend on the basis of what I remember — Card’s collection of short stories, Maps in the Mirror. While, like all of his writing, it’s not consistently good, there are some very good short stories. Granted, it’s been a while since I read it last.

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7 thoughts on “My take on Orson Scott Card

  1. The first three Alvin Maker books are definitely worth reading. I like the others, but there is a drop off in … something … I’ve argued for the merits of the latter books as well, but have to admit that the first three are the best.

    Two more that I’d add to your list:

    The Worthing Saga [fascinating take on agency]
    Hart’s Hope [a great fantasy novel — but — has some graphic scenes so be warned — not the type of fantasy novel you would read to your pre-teen]

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  2. The Worthing Saga was actually better, I thought in the earlier two revisions. He kept rewriting it until the final revision made it more like the Book of Mormon in form.

    My favorite, although many hate it, is Treason. It too is in two versions, but the latter one is best. It’s very violent, but I think is a very interesting analysis of Orson Pratt’s panpsychism and theory of priesthood, albeit told in a science fiction story.

    I agree with Card’s writing. Although he has had some good ones. I thought Ender’s Shadow was excellent, although its sequels were kind of lacking. I also though the book on Columbus and time travel was great.

    But he always had had a mixed bag…

    The first half of Xenocide was fantastic. The last half sucked, although the sequel improved it a bit. Card has always had trouble with pacing. Even Ender’s Game sort of has an end, and then it goes on with the aliens afterwards for a few dozen pages. Most of his rewrites with the books I mentioned were also pacing problems where he has two or three themes and he can’t get them all tied up together. But Xenocide is the worst in which he did that.

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  3. Based on your recommendation, I read _Rebekah_. I did enjoy it, but not quite as much as you did. I would like to read Sarah and Rachel and Leah though. I think I’ll try _Folk of the Fringe_ too.

    Thanks for your recommendations. I had forgotten about _Lolita in Tehran_ and finally am reading it now. I love it. I heard about it on Fresh Air when it first came out and was interested in it then. Thanks for reminding me!

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  4. I read Sarah and Rebekah in High School and actually liked Sarah better. (It was his first which goes along with your idea that he gets worse as he goes.) I remember particurally liking Sarah’s character. If you liked Rebekah, I would reccomend it. (I own it too, if you want to borrow it when you are in town.)

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  5. I am interested in your article about Speaker for the Dead, though the links I’ve used to try and find it did not work. Would you send me a working link or the text of your analysis? I’m not visiting this blog as often as I would like so if you could correspond via my email address I would appreciate it very much. rrnmailbox@gmail.com

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