Please Don’t Alienate Your Readers

Okay guys, this one’s going to be a doozy.  The book I’ve just finished is The Swarm by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston.  The coauthor in this is negligible.  We need to talk about OSC.  I’ll be covering a number of books in this particular post, because I’ve pruned my collection to get rid of those books I refuse to read again.  Some of them just weren’t super interesting.  Others, well, OSC’s an interesting guy.  To say the least and the politest.  Which is only the beginning.

First things first, let’s talk about the book itself.  The Swarm is, surprisingly enough, not bad.  I’m hurting a little for not rereading the preceeding books (The First Formic War – Earth UnawareEarth Afire, and Earth Awakens) so it took me a bit to place the returning characters.  I didn’t read that trilogy very many times, so it’s much easier for me to see the name “Chamrajnagar” and suspect that this is a relative of the man who will be…Strategos, I think…in Ender’s Game.  It also intrigued me to see the beginnings of Battle School and the Battle Room.  At this point in the timeline, things are still being thrown together and nothing’s set into stone or procedure the way it will be by the time Ender Wiggin is born.  But the stage is being set.  These are, after all, prequels.

So I can appreciate that OSC is a talented author, that he makes reference to LARPers because he can, and that he has a strong grasp of internet and techie culture as well as the conservatives who simply can’t conceive of it.  Overall, The Swarm isn’t a bad read, especially because Mazer Rackham is even more of a badass now than he is in Ender’s Game.

Which means it’s time to talk about Orson Scott Card.  The man is, in short, from somewhere out in the far right and who holds his variant of Christianity before him when he walks.  So a lot of his books, including this one, get some strange metaphysical ideas that tie into his view of religion.  It’s mentioned in The Swarm, but if you want the dissertation, go to Children of the Mind, the last book in Ender’s saga.

I mentioned that I’ve gotten rid of several OSC books of late.  As I have no intention of rereading them, ever, I’ll cover them now as they’re relevant.  I once owned all five Homecoming books (mostly a sidenote, being an unrelated series to the Enderverse), the Mithermages books (also unrelated), as well as all of the Shadow books and The First Formic War books.  In the Enderverse I’ve retained the books featuring the child prodigy himself: Ender’s GameA War of GiftsEnder in ExileSpeaker for the DeadXenocide, and Children of the Mind.  I’ve also kept Ender’s Shadow because I have a serious love of seeing situations through different lenses in different books.  Also because Bean is awesome as a kid and becomes less so as an adult.

So why did I ditch these other books?  It’s not because of them getting strange, as I’ve mentioned that Children of the Mind is by far the most bizarre of the lot.  It’s because The First Formic Wars were mediocre and the ship-family structure kept reminding me of merchanters in C.J. Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe…but done less well.  It’s because those books suffer from many of the same problems that plague the Star Wars prequels.

It’s because Orson Scott Card is very Christian and thinks everyone else should be too.

Don’t believe me?  It’s not as obvious in many of his older books, like Ender’s Game.  It becomes far too apparent in the Shadow books (Shadow of the HegemonShadow of the GiantShadow PuppetsShadows in Flight).  And, sadly, those aren’t even the worst offenders.  OSC wrote a series titled Women of Genesis and it is biblical fiction, about the mothers – Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel & Leah.  Those are actually quite good and I still have them.  Then he wrote Stone Tables, a book which purported to be similarly about Moses.  I read that one too, but really, it was just trying to show that Moses was a Jesus archetype.  I guess if you build your religion around a single concept, you want to see it in everything.

Now, I don’t have anything against reading books and characters of other religions.  In fact, it can be downright fascinating.  My favorite book by Irene Radford, Guardian of the Vision, has a Catholic priest for a protagonist.  My issue is when I feel like a book is hitting me on the head with an unabridged Bible saying “Convert.  Convert.  Convert.”  And, unfortunately, a lot of OSC’s work, particularly his recent stuff, has been getting that hackles-up reaction from me.  If you really want to see me ranting, read my goodreads review of Gatefather The point is, Card’s religion has become much more blatant over the years in situations where I personally don’t feel it’s warranted.

I’m not the only one who’s taken a step back and said “you know, I don’t really agree with this guy, am I sure I want to be supporting him?”  When the movie adaptation of Ender’s Game hit theaters, there was a serious movement out there to boycott it because of OSC.  I myself still haven’t seen it, though as soon as I saw Harrison Ford was cast, I knew he had to be Graff.  My reason for skipping it was rather different, and much more directly related to the book.  In case you can’t tell, I think Ender’s Game is a great book and while it did deserve to be adapted, I don’t think the adaptation could have been what it deserved based on what I saw in trailers and commercials.

HEY.  THIS SECTION WILL HAVE SOME SPOILERS FOR BOOK AND MOVIE.  EVEN IF I DIDN’T SEE THE MOVIE.
First things first, I hate that Hollywood has to have everybody be a teenager.  I think that Ender was technically pubescent by the climax of the book, but most of the book he was a child.  A legitimate child.  I don’t know if they tried to put a Forced Romantic Interest (FRI) in the movie, but if they did, it was probably Petra and certainly wouldn’t have helped anything.  But that’s a fairly standard pair of complaints I have with a lot of stuff coming out of Hollywood.

No, the bigger problem is the actual title screen.  If you watch it, the title Ender’s Game is shown with a planet exploding in the background.  See that?  Now you don’t need to watch the movie because you’ve seen the climax.  The Buggers’ (Formics’) planet exploding thanks to the Dr. Device triggered by the fleet of ships under Ender’s command.  The real human beings that he didn’t even realize were real people until after the war was over and everyone told him he’d won it for them.  I can understand that they want a cool-looking logo, but seriously, you pick the actual climax of the movie?  The thing that you’re not supposed to realize is real until after they tell you?  I really hate people sometimes.
OKAY, END SPOILERY RANT.

So, to recap, I still think that Orson Scott Card is a very talented author and he’s written one of my favorite books ever (Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus), but I really hate reading books that are preaching to me.  I’m not Christian, I’m not interested in being Christian, and you’re not going to change that.  The Swarm is a decent book and the read is enjoyable enough that I don’t feel my time has been wasted.  I probably won’t be investing more money in OSC novels, but I am perfectly happy to borrow them from my local library.  And I’ll keep the books I still have because, again, they are quite good.  And they have less (or less out of place) religious symbolism.

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