Orson Scott Card:
The Authorized Ender Companion
by Jake Black
Reviewed by Scott T. Barnes--editor
I received this book from the publicist with some trepidation. I have a strong aversion to books with such titles as “One Thousand Songs to Hear Before You Need a Hearing Aid” and “Ninety Nine Bedroom Tricks The Italians Haven’t Thought Of.” Those books are usually light of content and make for dull reading. Seeing the encyclopedia-like entries of the Ender Companion, I feared the worst. But my usual book reviewers had begged off The Authorized Ender Companion for various reasons (unfamiliarity with the series, busy with family, etc.) and so I was on my own.
It sat on my coffee table for a few days, trying to make me feel guilty. It might have sat long enough to get buried and forgotten under unread mail but for one fact: I am a fan of Orson Scott Card. His books are thoughtful. His characters are rounded, his stories engaging. I’ve followed him loosely over the years, reading several of his books and occasionally hearing him on the radio espouse a moderate and independent political viewpoint. Unlike many modern authors, his books aren’t “anti” anything, aren’t negative, and aren’t filled with hopelessness or anger.
Let’s make this clear: This book is not written by Card. It’s written by Jake Black, longtime friend of Card and of the Ender Series. Card authorized the book, and his name sells it.
As Black explains in the introduction: “This book is an encyclopedic reference to the events, characters, locations, and technology found within Orson Scott Card’s Ender Universe…It is designed as a resource for fans of the series to augment their understanding of all Ender-related material.
“It is hoped that readers will refer to this book while reading the novels and short stories.”
Ender’s Game is one of the seminal works in science fiction. Based on a short story published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in 1977, it is about a kid who saves the human race by playing a military simulation game. Who wouldn’t love that? The book Ender’s Game, published 1985, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. The follow-up, Speaker for the Dead, won the same two awards the following year.
The fact that the short story was written in 1974 shows how prescient Card was. The Ender Universe has now expanded to comprise 12 short stories or novellas, 9 novels, and 3 comic books. A feature film may be on its way…
Interestingly, Card never planned to have the Ender books become a series. He says in the introduction: “…The Ender books are an accidental series. I had no overarching plan. I did not systematically develop the universe in which all the stories take place.
“As a result, the Ender universe was not consistent. At the end of one book, thinking I was wrapping everything up, I would send one character off on a voyage; then in a later book, forgetting I had done so, I would have him conveniently hanging around on earth.
“I would give some obscure character a family, and then later forget that I had done so and give him a different family or make him childless. Then that minor character would become important, and I had to decide which set of facts I was going to work with.”
Most of the Ender Companion is an alphabetical listing of the people, places and things found in the books and short stories. I found myself reading the entries with some pleasure. It also includes a time line (the series spans 3,000 years), Ender’s family tree, a look at the screenplay development, and the technology Card invented. Finally the book ends with a fascinating series of letter from fans who have been specially touched by Card’s story.
As a writer, I always look for things which can help my craft. The Authorized Ender Companion is a rich resource if you know how to use it. The character sketches are concise. The encyclopedic entries include small plot summaries. The slang list is a virtual how-to of creating jargon. And most importantly to authors on the cusp of success, the book synopses at the end are studies on how to write query synopsis.
I can only recommend The Authorized Ender Companion to true fans of the Ender Series. But for those fans it will be a valuable resource. It has convinced me to reread the series, and you can bet The Authorized Ender Companion will be sitting by my side as I do.
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