This was a good book, but it came nowhere close to the first two Ender books (Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead). Why? I'm not entirely certain. Xenocide (which bears more resemblance to Speaker for the Dead than Ender's Game) has the characters facing many complex situations, and the moral questions that Card tackles are even more challenging than those encountered before. So why is this so much less satisfying than Speaker or Ender's Game?
Part of the problem might be simply the plot, which is far less developed than the previous two novels even though this novel is much longer than either of the two. Basically, the world which Ender lives, Lusitania, harbours a virus which kills humans but which the pequenninos (another Lusitanian species) require to survive. A fleet from the Starways Congress has been sent to wipe out the virus, regardless of the inhabitants which live there. Somehow, it must be stopped.
The novel never spends much time addressing this story, however. It instead focuses on a wide array of ethical dilemmas. Some are admittedly impressive. Is it justifiable to destroy another sentient species because of human survival? Will it never be possible for different species to interact without some form of fear or revulsion? In addition to these questions, Card explores the mob psychology as well as pondering the life of an individual (named Qing-Jao) with so much religious faith it overrides common sense. (This sub-plot is the best part of the story. The character he created here is unique and incredible.) He delves into the characters' relationships, producing a web of love and hate even more complex than that of Speaker.
Yet what I felt is that Xenocide lacks direction, that it has too many moral dilemmas crammed into a work with a barely traceable story line. Gone, too, is the simplicity of Ender's Game and the warmth of Speaker for the Dead. Xenocide feels bloated, heavy, and almost too ambitious for its own good.
Worst of all is Card's own inability to handle the consequences of his moral questions. Xenocide has a horrendous ending—a ridiculously overblown solution to the brilliant problems he presented earlier. I don't want to give anything away, but—the resurrection of souls through sheer force of will? Please! It is evident that Card wanted to add yet another dilemma by bringing back to life certain main characters and having them interact with existing ones, but the move was highly illogical and unnecessary.
I believe, too, that Card betrayed his own characters in this novel—he had already fulfilled them in Speaker for the Dead, and now he makes them less appealing, more selfish. I do credit Card for being thoughtful—after all, real people don't always mature their whole lives, they may de-mature as well. Had he only the talent to execute this concept without alienating readers from the characters he created, I would be able to commend him—but alas, it only dampens the enjoyment of this book.
Read Xenocide if you have to, but I would recommend simply stopping after Speaker for the Dead. Xenocide is unresolved, so reading this means you'll have to pick up the next novel....
Review author unknown