by Orson Scott Card
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
It is almost a sure bet that anyone who reads Orson Scott Card’s collection First Meetings is already familiar with his novel Ender’s Game. This collection of three stories, which was written backwards, ends with the novella which formed the basis for that book. Immediately prior to that, Card tells the story of Ender’s first meeting with the computer Jane in “Investment Counselor.” The book opens with the story “The Polish Boy,” about Ender’s father, John Paul.Wiggins (neé Wieczorek).
As with Ender, John Paul was born to noncompliant parents. As with Alvin Maker, he was a seventh child, linking “The Polish Boy” to two of Card’s major novel series. While the story focuses on John Paul’s youth, it also provides insight into Ender’s world before the decision was made to fight the buggers with children. While John Paul may not completely jibe with his character as presented in later novels, “The Polish Boy” does shed some light on his activities, particularly in Shadow Puppets. Perhaps even more interesting is the depiction of Captain Graff so many years before he met Ender, having his first meeting with John Paul and his parents and laying the groundwork for the rest of the series.
Card then skips forward to a time after John Paul’s son, Ender, defeats the buggers. “Investment Counselor” was originally published in Robert Silverberg’s Far Horizons anthology. When Ender landed on the planet Sorelledolce, he found that his government tax-exempt trust fund was now taxable. Furthermore, the holdings were so complex, that it would take him time to figure out the taxes he owed. Once that obstacle was cleared, Ender would continue on his plan to find a safe haven for the last of the Hive Queens. The story shows Ender’s introduction to the calling of Speaker for the Dead, which grew out of his own books The Hive Queen and The Hegemon while he was traveling from star system to star system. It also provided him with his financial software-cum-companion, Jane, who would figure in the novels Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind. The story’s biggest drawback is that Card fails to explain Jane’s provenance, and therefore leaves an unfinished feeling.
Finally, Card returns to the main story of “Ender’s Game.” This novella stands up quite well to the passage of time and tells of John Paul’s son, Ender, who finally fulfills his father’s promise and is taken to Colonel Graff’s Battle School, where he excels above and beyond all the other children in a time when the Hegemony has elected to fight the buggers with children. The story follows a short period in the life of several extremely precocious children, yet Card has written “Ender’s Game” in a manner which fully allows the reader to suspend disbelief for the duration for the tale. Furthermore, Card introduces several moral and philosophical themes concerning the use of children in various roles which stay with the reader long after the story is finished.
The three stories in First Meetings serve to highlight different aspects of Ender’s world and allows Card to show a variety of aspects of his characters and the universe as a whole which serve to present different ways of looking at the stories Card has previously told and the character he uses in them.
|The Polish Boy|
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