blake's Reviews > Xenocide

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card
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Dec 28, 13

bookshelves: scifi-fantasy-horror
Read in June, 2009

TOO LONG.

I grudgingly give this book a 3, based only on my affection for the characters and the creativity of the story. Most of the book suffers from overkill in one sense or another, which leads to its main problem of length. It´s impossible to deny that Card is brilliant, but I can think of no writers other than Tolstoy and Dickens (barely) that can justifiably write 600 or more pages of novel. Yes I'm aware I'm including Dostoyevsky in this statement (sorry Karamazov-lovers). Card could have brought this one in at under 500 and lost nothing while gaining much due to brevity.

Problems (where to start?):

Much of the length problem was due to tedious treatment of 3 of the main characters. Miro -- look, I get that he doesn´t like being paralyzed and that he´s wallowing in self-pity. You can cut at least 10 pages of his wallowing and I will still understand it. His transformation at the end will still be impactful.

Si Wang-Mu -- the introduction of Path and the gradual revelation of OCD was masterful. What I needed much less of was the hammering home of their inner turmoil over the gods. There´s a specific 5 page passage starting on 430 that as far as I can tell is used solely for Wang-Mu to ponder the nature of godhood. If you´re going to spend 5 pages on her, at least use it to develop the mind-boggling and completely inexplicable split-second decision she makes at the end(view spoiler).

Quara -- I did not swallow this character for one instant. Besides the ridiculous lapse in logic that she´s prepared to wipe out 2 species (including her own) so as not to kill 1 species, I´m supposed to believe that she´s defending Descolada just to get back at her family? And this is the first sign of mental instability that she´s shown in 30 years? Ender couldn´t have "healed" her in all that time (Is he a demi-god with supernatural powers of healing as shown in Speaker for the Dead or isn´t he?)? And then in all the arguments they had with her, no one could have raised the point that a dying Piggy raises at the very end:(view spoiler)

This woman is simply insane, and I do not believe that she would have been allowed to affect so much of the goings-on if Card were trying to be at all realistic. She was used to create conflict in an already uber-conflictive book, and guess what -- not necessary! That´s almost 30 pages saved right there. Did anyone else catch the part where she was passing Ela´s defense work to the virus itself? Mentioned but never follwed up on.

My other objections are less grave. There´s the dialogue style, just as present in Speaker and to a lesser extent in Ender´s, where every character is constantly psychoanalyzing every other, and everything they say can be decoded to show a deep personal insight. Although it worked without overtly bothering me in the first two books it got to be too much in this one (perhaps due to the length). People don´t actually talk like this, or if they do I´ve never met them. It´s not natural and became intrusive to my reading experience. There was a bizarre narration sequence on page 100 where Card suddenly addresses the reader in the 2nd person -- jarring to say the least. Finally(view spoiler)

This book was very frustrating to me, because there were so many really good things about it (mainly plot and the ethical/geo-political dilemmas), but some really bad ones as well.

Cross-posted at Not Bad Movie and Book Reviews.
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Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) So true. I like your observations.


Shaun The decision to go with Peter wasn't inexplicable. She dreamed that she was his wife.


blake If you want, you can substitute the word fragment "credible" for "explicable." Same essential thought.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) He does that with too many of his romances. Including Ender and Novin-can't ever spell that.


General Woundwort While you do have a point in general, this book did enough to A.) tell the story that Card wanted to tell, and B.) leave me wanting to read the next one. It's all good in my book (pardon the pun...)


blake General wrote: "While you do have a point in general, this book did enough to A.) tell the story that Card wanted to tell, and B.) leave me wanting to read the next one. It's all good in my book (pardon the pun...)"
The first sentence or so of my review pretty much echoes the first part of your comment. The second part I don't agree with mainly because I doubt Card intended to depend solely on his readers' investment in the characters and series to sell future books. If he did, he's lazy and ethically lacking, and if he didn't (if he actually tried to write a well-constructed book) then he failed. That's why it's not "all good" for me -- it's frustrating since I know from experience that Card is capable of better.


message 7: by Hudson (new)

Hudson That review was TOO LONG! But seriously, don't complain about the length of a book, it's pathetic


message 8: by Hudson (new)

Hudson Otherwise, good point


message 9: by blake (last edited May 09, 2013 03:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

blake If you want you can check my other books to assure yourself that I have read and enjoyed plenty of long books, so clearly it's not an attention span problem. Maybe it's just that not all long books earn their length, or that some might benefit from being shorter.

I notice you're new on here. A more humble person might hang out for a little and measure the lay of the land before calling random people "pathetic." It's actually kind of pathetic.


Veronica I think in Card's universe, lengthy explanation of all events/scenarios is incredibly necessary. How can you appreciate the full effect of the series otherwise? We're talking about a setting thousands of years into the future, building off of two previous books, yet with the same inherently human subjects and an entirely new storyline coming into play. Card is requiring his reader to fully engage in this, and like a history book, he covers all the details, and all of the details are important.


message 11: by Jeremy (last edited Jun 25, 2013 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeremy Exactly! You said precisely what I had intended but was too lazy to fully say. Thank you.


Stuart Agree. Read your review after I wrote mine and you express my points much more clearly. Card has so many great ideas in this series, but this book could have done with probably 100 less pages.


message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan Griffin to hudson and blake.why should he be "humble". no-one who expresses their views online is humble.p.s. I'm a newby too.


blake Because humility is a virtue and its opposite, "arrogance," is pretty universally regarded as a personality flaw. . . does this really need to be explained?

You're correct that expressing your views online indicates a minimum degree of arrogance. . . "My thoughts are important enough to make public". . . However to enter into any community (online or otherwise) and begin insulting older members right off the bat is bad form at best. At worst it gets you ostracized. My response to Hudson was an attempt to gently remind him of that.

By the way, welcome to GoodReads.


message 15: by Mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mark Deacon Good review. Totally agree with your assessment.


Michael I expect good novels to be in the 500+ page range, and feel cheated when I receive less.


blake Michael wrote: "I expect good novels to be in the 500+ page range, and feel cheated when I receive less."

That's your prerogative, obviously different from mine.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) If it's 500 pages of good writing, I don't mind, but if it's stuff that can be cut out, such as OSC ranting about marriage, babies, having children, religion. I swear if all of that had been cut out of Ender in Exile you'd have a pamphlet left.


Karina Did anyone else catch the part where she was passing Ela´s defense work to the virus itself? Mentioned but never follwed up on. Good point! I forgot about that part... Yeah, this wasn't as good as some of his other books, and it did seem too long: I wanted it to be over with.


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