I avoided reading this book for a long time, largely as a result of reading The Folk of the Fringe, also by Orson Scott Card. In the end I am glad I fI avoided reading this book for a long time, largely as a result of reading The Folk of the Fringe, also by Orson Scott Card. In the end I am glad I finally got around to picking this up but I can't pretend to love it the way the majority of readers do.
The writing is good and the story flows well. The concept is wonderful. The story is good overall but not without it's problems. What sets this story apart are the characters arcs of the main character, Ender. It is in these arcs that the brilliance of the book comes through.
One arc deals with Ender's trials at Battle School where he is constantly challenged to win games (simulated battles between armies of children), and overcome bullies and other adversaries. He is always successful in everything he does. Note that this is not a spoiler - the book makes it abundantly clear that he cannot lose, it is even stated outright. This makes for an exciting, page-turning read but causes the book to lose the feeling of anticipation that is normally expected in such a book.
The second arc deals with Ender's emotional struggles and is the primary arc of the character. Although Ender is supremely successful in his trials he is cut off from everyone else, with no close friends and many open enemies. It is this character arc that ultimately comes to a head but also the arc that ultimately left me wanting. I had a hard time balancing this with the other arc for most of the story. Towards the end of the book, this arc begins to assert itself over the other and I could really feel Ender's pain and anger.
Unfortunately, the end of the book is too clean and quick to fix the problems created through the second character arc. It is too easy and not satisfying and ultimately annoyed me more than anything else. I can honestly say it is one of the worst endings to a book that I have ever read because of how well it undoes all that the story had accomplished.
In the end, I am giving it four stars for two reasons: I was thoroughly sucked into it (for the most part), and I really admire the ambitious task of trying to balance two such opposing character arcs. The book ultimately fails in the latter but it is commendable regardless. Even so, I find that I have no interest in reading the rest of the series. ...more
Many of the reviews I have read about this series (not limited to Goodreads) were written by people who discovered the books as kids or teens. That isMany of the reviews I have read about this series (not limited to Goodreads) were written by people who discovered the books as kids or teens. That is probably when the books can be best appreciated. Reading "A Princess of Mars" for the first time at 35, I was both enchanted by the vision of Burroughs and dismayed by the problems in the plot.
Make no mistake - "A Princess of Mars" deserves its place among the classics of Science Fiction. The rich world Burroughs envisioned for the red planet is resplendent in characters, cultures and history. It goes well beyond anything I would have thought possible for a science fiction book written in the very beginning of the twentieth century. Having not read any Tarzan books, I can easily see that the adventurous spirit that made those books famous was already well developed in these.
At the same time, Princess is pulp in every sense of the term. The chapters are short, things happening quickly and the plot progressing at a lightning fast pace. Being an adventure novel, this generally works. The problem is that the story also relies on contrivances. Much of these are related in a quick aside by the narrator who will calmly explain that a locked door (for example) was no problem because someone had previously explained to him how to open it. This is lazy by today's standards and although it may have been acceptable at the time the book was published, I found that I grew tired of the trick as the book wore on.
Similarly, the main character, John Carter, is portrayed as almost a superman, thanks to powers he gained through being an earthling on Mars (note that although I'd prefer to say human, the book labels all intelligent species as human regardless of how they look or what their ancestry is). Some of these are explained, such as his super-strength which is the result of his Earth-developed muscles being far stronger than the muscles of the martians which developed in lower gravity. Others are mysterious such as the fact that although Carter can here the telepathic thoughts of others (a common form of communication), no one can hear his. Taken together however, these just serve to make him invincible, smoothing the way for him to overcome what measly obstacles present themselves. It makes all challenges rather boring to read.
While I have been meaning to read the books in the series for a long time and I am glad I finally read this one, I am satisfied that I have done my duty as a science fiction fan and do not plan on reading the rest. ...more
I plan to re-read this one. I originally read it in third grade (I've never since understood why it was included in the scholastic catalogue sent to mI plan to re-read this one. I originally read it in third grade (I've never since understood why it was included in the scholastic catalogue sent to my thrid grade class) and loved it. Any deeper implications in it went completely over my head of course. I read it again in HS but its been too long....more
I have yet to meet anyone who liked this book. Even the teacher who assigned it to the class when I first read it, later admitted that she didn't partI have yet to meet anyone who liked this book. Even the teacher who assigned it to the class when I first read it, later admitted that she didn't particuarly like it either. It was critically acclaimed and the writing is beautiful so there must be something to it. Maybe someday someone will be able to explain what was so womderful about it....more