SciFiFilter: I'm not usually a fan of SciFi, and yet I loved Ender's Game. Where to next?
January 26, 2009 12:52 PM   Subscribe

SciFiFilter: I'm not usually a fan of SciFi, and yet I loved Ender's Game. Where to next?

I recently read Ender's Game and loved it. I'd really like to read more about Ender, but Orson Scott Card's series appears difficult to enter. Speaker for the Dead looks exactly like the kind of SciFi I hate. Ender's Game was all about the characters and the story, with the fact that it was set in some futuristic civilization being fairly minimal to the plot. This doesn't appear to be the case with Speaker. For what it's worth, I also didn't really like the very end of Ender's Game. If the book had ended after you find out he was actually controlling real people the whole time, It would've been perfect. If Speaker is more like the end of Ender's Game, it's not for me.

Where should I go next? Ender in Exile and A War of Gifts both look like they might be more along the lines of what I'm looking for. Do I need to have read Speaker and Xenocide to understand them? Or can I jump right in?

I'm willing to read Speaker if I need to understand it to enjoy Ender in Exile, but if I don't have to I'd just as soon skip it.

posted by jeffderek to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (43 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
If you enjoyed Ender's Game, I can tell you that the place to stop is right there.
posted by mikepop at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2009 [20 favorites]

Skip it all sorry. Ender's Game was an anomaly for OSC who is at best a mediocre plot specialist and at worst a didactic mystical hand-wavy sexist. This series goes downhill very fast.

If you like interesting settings that involve space and hard science and ambiguity of moral choices try Larry Niven's Ringworld.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:01 PM on January 26, 2009

Ender's Shadow is a good re-telling of Ender's Game.

Ultimately though OSC isn't that great of a science fiction author and some of his books show it more than others (cough *xenocide* cough).
posted by so_ at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2009

You might like Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy, starting with Red Mars.
posted by Nelson at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2009

If you like Bean and the political sub-plot with Ender's brother, you might try The Shadow Saga that starts with Ender's Shadow. The main Ender Saga gets pretty dry after Ender's Game, but from what I remember, my Junior High self enjoyed them quite a bit.
posted by megamanwich at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2009

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson would be a way cooler read than Orson Scott Card.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Other books:

Earth, by David Brin is pretty cool, as is Startide Rising.

Heart of the Comet, by Gregory Benford and David Brin is still one of my fave books, and I no longer read SF.

Aeon, by Greg Bear is a neat book.

There is, of course, Neuromancer, which really is a tour de force.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2009

My girlfriend just read Ender's Game and loved it. I told her to stop right there but she didn't listen and read Speaker. She enjoyed it but not nearly as much as EG. I would advise avoiding anything by OSC except for EG.

You might like Gateway by Frederik Pohl. It's the first book in a series and the later books do get a little too "sci-fi"y but Gateway is tremendous.
posted by Diskeater at 1:12 PM on January 26, 2009

Pat Cadigan's Mindplayers hit a total Ender's-Game-but-better note for me. I think there's a similarity in the gaming/simulation element of both, although I prefer Cadigan's writing and used to be a bit of a huge fan.

Ultimately, though, read on if you want to. I read the series more than once after being reminded how much I liked Ender's Game, and while it's not terribly satisfying, I haven't mourned the time I spent on it too much - although admittedly, I was in my teens and not as picky as I would be now. Your free time/tolerance may vary.
posted by carbide at 1:13 PM on January 26, 2009

If you're super into character and plot, I'd say read Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan saga.

But yeah, stop with the Ender series right there. I read the next two and didn't mind them, but practically threw the fourth book across the room because it was just that bad.
posted by hought20 at 1:16 PM on January 26, 2009

Ender's Game is a SciFi classic, but unfortunately not all of OSC's books were of the same caliber. However the Enderverse is large enough that there are several additional books that you would likely enjoy.

The remaining books in the "Ender" series (Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind) are more philosophical, and based on your post, not something you would enjoy.

The "Shadow" series (Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant), which focuses on Bean sounds right up your alley. These books are in the same style as Ender's game and focus more on the characters, military strategy, and politics. You would also enjoy Ender in Exile, as well as several other Enderverse short stories written by OSC.
posted by Mr. X at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2009

This list is pretty solid.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:19 PM on January 26, 2009

I recommend The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod. It has some very strong characters and the fact that about half of it is set in the "present" means that the characters have some room to breath without the sci-fi elements and it deals with themes of love and identity in a highly advanced technological world. Not to say that the sci-fi stuff isn't integral to the plot, but I found it to be a very engaging, character-driven book.
posted by otolith at 1:19 PM on January 26, 2009

I liked the Shadow series by OSC alright, and Songmaster by OSC, but it wasn't until I picked up Marge Piercy's He, She and It that I found another character driven future-story that hit the same chords for me.
posted by annathea at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2009

You might like Beggars in Spain. It's been a while since I read it, so I don't entirely remember how much is character driven and how much is just SciFi for SciFi's sake, but if I'm remembering right, its probably about the right mix for you.
posted by willnot at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2009

From damn dirty ape's link, I recently read The Speed of Dark, and that might be a very good choice for you.
posted by willnot at 1:26 PM on January 26, 2009

You could try some of these.
posted by Artw at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2009

Try The Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton. There is a ton of human interaction, and the plot isn't too sci-fi-ey...
posted by schyler523 at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2009

Like you, I loved Ender's Game so much when I first read it that I didn't want to give up the world when I finished. The next three got progressively worse, and the end, I had grown bitter towards Card for ruining such a great thing. Ender's Shadow was very good, but only after a long pause - a re-visitation to Ender's Game without actually re-reading Ender's Game.
posted by yeti at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2009

I pretty much always recommend Iain Banks when the subject of Space Opera comes up, so I will again here. Player of Games or Use of Weapons are good starts (others may disagree).
posted by Artw at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with the comments upthread- if you enjoyed it EG, don't read on (unless it is Ender's Shadow which was pretty darn cool), and particularly don't spoil your enjoyment of EG by reading any of OSC's screeds on gay people.

Someone whose SF writing I'm proud to financially support is Lois McMaster Bujold. I love every book in her Miles Vorkosigan series.

How about some of the classics? The Hammer of God is a book I reread over and over again (Arthur C. Clarke)
posted by arnicae at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2009

If it's interplay between interesting characters you're after, you might enjoy Dan Simmons' Hyperion.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:59 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh and Old Man's War by Metafilter's Own™ John Scalzi.
posted by JaredSeth at 2:02 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend John Scalzi's Old Man's War trilogy. Fast paced, easily accessible, and a lot of fun.
posted by donovan at 2:03 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm going to recommend a very different series narrated by a young protagonist who is raised in an enclave, closely observed as a kind of experiment, and has high adventures during wartime: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, by M.T. Anderson.
posted by nicwolff at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2009

OP, perhaps you should tell us what kind of Sci Fi you usually hate.

I agree with the rest: avoid Card. I guess I can dump in a few books that I think everyone at least a little brainy should like.

_Childhood's End_, Clarke
_Macroscope_, Pohl (?)
_Rainbows End_, Vinge (Seriously, I hope "Ender" isn't influencing these two "End-" titles in my little ol' brain.)
_To Say Nothing of the Dog_, Willis
_Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom_, Doctorow
_Snow Crash_, Stepenson
posted by cmiller at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2009

"Ender's Shadow" is totally worth it. I ended up adoring Bean much more than Ender himself.

"Snow Crash" is also fantastic.

Someone mentioned "Cryptonomicon" which, while remaining the best book I've ever read, and one of the only books I've read more than once, is not science fiction.
posted by bryanjbusch at 2:23 PM on January 26, 2009

Give a try to:
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
The Necessary Beggar or Flying in Place by Susan Pawlick
and, if you've never read it, the original Dune by Frank Herbert. Definitely don't touch anything else in that series either though.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2009

I read Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age this summer and it reminded me a great deal of Ender's Game. It might even be too similar, actually. But hey, I enjoyed it.
posted by Rinku at 2:33 PM on January 26, 2009

I recommend The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod. It has some very strong characters and the fact that about half of it is set in the "present" means that the characters have some room to breath without the sci-fi elements and it deals with themes of love and identity in a highly advanced technological world. Not to say that the sci-fi stuff isn't integral to the plot, but I found it to be a very engaging, character-driven book.

Go the whole hog and read the whole series. Each one presents a different possible future society, and explores the implications of a different political system winning - Communism, Libertarianism, the Greens. Read it if you like the idea of characters that debate Trotsky and left/right Libertarianism.

His other stuff is good, too.

I have to say I enjoyed Card's post-Ender's Game books, so it's possible that you will too.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:33 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mein Kampf??
posted by mr. strange at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Snow Crash is excellent. I mean, check out this plot summary from the Wikipedia entry:

"The hero and protagonist whose story the book follows is the aptly-named Hiro Protagonist, whose business card reads "Last of the freelance hackers and Greatest swordfighter in the world". When Hiro loses his job as a pizza delivery driver for the Mafia he meets a streetwise young girl nicknamed Y.T. (short for Yours Truly), who works as a skateboard "Kourier", and they decide to become partners in the intelligence business (selling data to the CIC, the for-profit organization that evolved from the CIA after the US government's loss of power).

The pair soon learn of a dangerous new drug called "Snow Crash", which is both a computer virus capable of infecting the brains of unwary hackers in the Metaverse and a mind-altering virus in Reality. It is distributed by a network of Pentecostal churches via its infrastructure and belief system."

posted by parilous at 3:13 PM on January 26, 2009

I'd recommend LeGuin's Lathe of Heaven (all her work, really, but that this one is more approachable if you're not used to sci-fi).

If you're considering classic sci-fi, I really like Pohl's short stories. You do have the sci-fi setup but he really explores how the circumstances affect the people (added benefit you can read a short story at your bookstore before buying it - I have 'Platinum Pohl').
posted by ejaned8 at 4:05 PM on January 26, 2009

nthing Snow Crash and The Diamond Age by Stephenson.
Try the Bridge Trilogy by William Gibson.
posted by whiskeyspider at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2009

I'm going to be a contrarian here: what you want is to read more OS Card, but read stuff from the same era as Ender's Game. You see, once upon a time there was this great writer whose stories were so sharp and beautiful that I could barely stand reading them. Then something ... happened which made him incapable of leaving things alone. He rewrote short stories into long ones, then novellas, novels, trilogies and ever-blooming teratologies. He took the same story and rewrote it from the point of view of other people. He did everything he could, in short, to disguise the fact that he could no longer write.

Anyway, here's what you need to read:
Hart's Hope: fantasy, technically, because the characters use magic and divination, but it's as much like most fantasy as heroin is like ginger ale. I can't think of a way to summarise the plot, but it's kind of an interrupted tragedy.

Songmaster: the young and talented protagonist makes this more than a little reminiscent of Ender's Game.

Maps in a Mirror: the short stories on which Card built his reputation.

If you liked those then read The Worthing Saga (Hot Sleep is an earlier version, good luck finding it) which actually is science fiction and Wyrms which only pretends to be. Then stop.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:38 PM on January 26, 2009

nthing Snow Crash and also Dune.

Also you might like A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Leguin.

You might want to clarify what it was you liked about Ender's Game, and what you hate about the kind of Sci Fi you hate, otherwise you're going to get more nerds offering up recommendations of Sci Fi that is probably good, but not to your taste exactly.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:40 PM on January 26, 2009

I would personally recommend against Neuromancer. I found it very dense and hard to get to the actual meaning. I don't know if I ever actually figured out any of the plot, and have no positive recollections of it. He makes up words and technology but never really explains anything about what they are, so only get into that if that's your sort of thing. The characters never really had any depth to me.

I would suggest Philip K Dick's short stories. They're a different sort of genre, of the "twist-end sci-fi", but they have a good plot and reasonably curious characters.

Read Ender's Shadow, it's a good one in the Ender world. The rest are tricky and at times irritating.

If you're willing to venture into fantasy, I really would recommend the Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix. They're good character-plot-driven stories with the curious magical/technological world there but not really the be-all-end-all of the story.
posted by that girl at 7:19 PM on January 26, 2009

Another vote for Old Man's War. If you like that series, try Stranger in a Strange Land or another Heinlein classic...from there, the universe is at your fingertips.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:59 PM on January 26, 2009

You've gotten some good advice here, mixed in with a lot of bad advice. The next couple of paragraphs are a rant about people not understanding Card so skip it if you don't care. My recomendations come after that.

The first bit that I take umbrage with is the trashing of Card and his writing, especially the rest of the Ender series. Anyone who is mad because Speaker for the Dead & Xenocide ruined the Ender series don't know the history of the series. Card only expanded Ender's game from a short story to novel length after he decided he needed more background for the characters in Speaker for the Dead.

Orson Scott Card is a rare breed. He has the critical knowledge that comes with studying and teaching writing (he is a creative writing professor) and has proven his knowledge with multiple bestsellers and prestigious awards, unlike most professors of the subject.

Back to the advice:

Orson Scott Card writes in different styles in different books so what appealed to you in Ender's Game may not be there in other books by him. If you liked the same things from Ender's Game that I did (coming of age story & writing style) skip most of the rest of his SF. You will probably enjoy the Ender's Shadow series. Maps in a Mirror has some excellent short stories. If you are interested in fantasy novels with the same feel, check out the Tales of Alvin Maker, which starts with Seventh Son. They are fantastic. Also check out his horror/modern fantasy novels including Lost Boys, Homebody, Treasure Box and Enchantment.

If you are open to military SF, check out the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. It has the same feel of one person up against the world that Ender's Game has.

Try some Heinlein, but be careful which ones. Tunnel in the Sky would be my first recommendation. Others that are my favorites (some are dated to a degree though) are Starman Jones, Citizen of the Galaxy, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The Green Hills of Earth and The Man Who Sold the Moon are great collections of short stories.

For funny SF, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a bit like Monty Python & the Holy Grail - Not my thing, but a classic that many (most?) people love. I prefer the Myth books (beginning with Another Fine Myth) by Robert Asprin, but they are fantasy. You might also enjoy the Callahan books by Spider Robinson - hilarious SF.

These are just off the top of my head. There are a lot more out there. Hope this helped.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 9:35 PM on January 26, 2009

I'm going to go against the grain here and vote against Snow Crash. I liked Snow Crash enough to read it twice, but it appealed to the same part of my brain that liked Speaker for the Dead. Plus, some parts of the plot still didn't make sense after the second read, so I find it to have that hand-wavey "it's so out there you don't even need to understand" thing that you see in some sci fi. So, if you want to try some Stephenson and what you like is a fast story plus what thekiltedwonder calls "one person up against the world," I'd go with Zodiac (though it's set in the US in the 80s or 90s, with only a few sci fi elements). If you want to really get to know some characters, and are willing to read a really long book, try Cryptonomicon. (Or maybe the Baroque cycle, which I haven't read.)

Nthing Dune. Potentially perfect for you. A young man gets initiated to the world of being in power (on another planet). I loved it a decade before liking any sci fi.

The Phillip K Dick suggestion above may also be really good for you, particularly if Dune feels slow to you. I think of PKD stories as very fast-paced, and they're mind-bending in the way that the ending to Ender's Game was. I don't think PKD is much into character development; he has this universal everyman in the books and stories I've read. But if you happen to like that everyman, you'll be golden.
posted by salvia at 10:32 PM on January 26, 2009

The Postman - David Brin
Stranger in a Strange Land - Robert A. Heinlein

At some point I figured out that it wasn't that I dislike science fiction, it was that I dislike bad writing (duh :-). SciFi tends to have enough neato-keeno ideas to hang a bad plot, bad construction, or just plain ol' bad writing off of and hard-core fans deal with it. Give the well-known good authors a try at the library; you'll probably find a few whose style you like.
posted by girlhacker at 2:40 AM on January 27, 2009

It depends on what you liked about Ender's that seemed different from regular SF. Was it the absence of: vague sociology lectures; the "Dude! Check out my sweet spaceship I wrote! It does 20 bogomips per parsec!" chapters; The shocking! aliens who have sex with their noses and eat their grandparents etc.; the strange resemblance of future-utopian leaders to Mussolini?

'Cause then you need The Forever War. And never, ever another OSC book.

Was it the kids and the adventure? Maybe a Heinlein juvie then. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, say.
posted by fidelity at 12:05 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is all a bit "generic good SF List" - want to give us some clues to help narrow it down?
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on January 27, 2009

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