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