Review: “Ender in Exile” (Audiobook) by Orson Scott Card

Most of the books I get finished these days are audiobooks. A while back, I went through my top 5 audiobooks, and at the very top of that list was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. I was so enthralled by the production quality of the first one that as soon as I finished my Master’s comps, I downloaded the audiobook of the direct sequel that had just come out, Ender in Exile.

The book itself is phenomenal. OSC really captured the feel that he had in Ender’s Game, even though it was written 25 years ago. They story finally tells of what actually happens to Ender Wiggin after the Third Formic War. There was a huge gap in Ender’s life before this book was written. The original Ender’s Game sequel, Speaker for the Dead, had Ender as a middle-aged man traveling the stars, with only a final chapter in the original novel telling how he got there. That’s where this book comes in. It serves as a bridge between the life Ender lived as an adult and the feats of military xenocide/salvation he perpetrated as a child. Until this novel, Ender had decades of lost time only hinted at in the other Ender Universe stories.

As much as I enjoyed the book (and I enjoyed it bunches), I do have a couple of minor irritations regarding storytelling. My main problem is that as much as I enjoyed Ender’s Game, it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I didn’t bother to brush up on it any prior to popping in Ender in Exile. I could have gotten online and read a synopsis of Game on the internet, but I shouldn’t have to resort to such measures. Normally, this isn’t a problem in all but the most serialized of series. However, in this book, OSC writes with very little recap. That means that the author was writing under the assumption that those who were reading it had a working knowledge of some fairly specific things that happened in the first novel.

Unfortunately for me, I had not. I remembered a skeletal outline of events and had a good idea of the basic characters and their relationships, but not really more than that. The novel was about 14 hours long, and for the first two, maybe three, hours, I was hearing about events and people in such a casual way that I was slightly put off. There was no exposition to recap events, and part of that I know is due to the way the narrative itself was constructed. Exile was written to begin directly after Game. If it were not for the pesky problem of the two novels being written over two decades apart, they could have been a single book split into two volumes like The Lord of The Rings was. Therefore, there really was no in-text way of making the characters realistically reference and explain something that had, to them, happened days, if not hours, before.

“Hey, Ender, you remember that time you were awesome and saved the world?”

“You mean like 5 minutes ago? Before I went to pee?”



“Nothin’. Just wanted to see if you remembered it.”

It just doesn’t work.

But something needed to have been included as a refresher for fans who might have loved Ender’s Game enough to read a sequel, but hadn’t read it in a while. A simple re-cap or argument before the actual novel began would have been sufficient, and so would a little explanation from the narrator with a sentence or two. I just wanted something to help me remember exactly who Graff and Petra and Achilles and all the other characters were and just what happened outside of the basic outline of plot points I had in my head.

But, to be fair, that was my only major qualm with the novel. Really.

Aside from being a little hazy on details without any sort of explanation, the only thing that really got to me in the novel is that it seemed unbalanced in terms of time spent on certain plot points. For someone to have been as relatively minor to the overall narrative as Alessandra and Dorabella Toscano were, they certainly took up massive amounts of time being introduced and explicated. OSC has a penchant for giving me every detail of a character’s backstory when I don’t have any reason to care about that character. He did this in Xenocide, and that’s why I stopped listening to it. This especially irks me about Ender in Exile because the end of the novel seems so rushed in comparison to the beginning where the Toscanos are prominent. Were Alessandra an integral part of Ender’s life (she’s not, and those who read the other Ender Universe novels know that), I could see it. As it stands, I don’t care what happened to her and her mother, and I would have much rather learned more in-depth information about Ender as he transitions from the savior of Earth to Speaker for the Dead to the Xenocide and back to Speaker.

The rest of the novel was fabulous. It was well-written and paced. Aside from the Toscanos, I felt that the rest of the supporting cast was perfectly represented. Sel and Po finding the Gold Bugs worked. I thought it was great to show Ender and Abra finally give an in-depth explanation for the Formic pupa that takes up so much of Speaker for the Dead’s narrative. I loved hearing about the original colonists who Ender was meant to govern. I cared about how Ender and the acting governor developed an appropriate name for the colony so it wouldn’t have to be referred to as “Colony 1.”

Probably my favorite part of the novel was the way that OSC implemented elements of the epistolary novel into the book with the emails between characters. I looked forward to each new piece of correspondence more than the chapter it preceded, actually. They offered a great deal of insight into characters I cared about, specifically the relationships Ender had with his siblings and Colonel Graff. I like any opportunity to see a kind of first-person narration worked into a third-person book because it gives the reader a connection to characters that is far more intimate than is possible through a traditional third-person narrator.

And because it was an audiobook, the quality of the recording matters. The book is told through many voices, with each reader representing a part of the novel where the third-person narrator is limited to a single character’s perspective. Valentine has her own voice actor, Ender has one, Achilles has one, Alessandra, etc. This works so well because third-person limited narration can seem kind of jumpy because of how even the “neutral” voice in the story suddenly knows things only X character could know when last chapter it knew things exclusive to Y. OSC himself narrates part of the book, as do part of his family and others who reprise their role from the original audio recordings of the series. I don’t know how many different audio copies of the series exist, but if more than one exists, then I highly suggest the one that ties into the 20th Anniversary Edition of Ender’s Game and Ender in Exile from

Minor qualms and quibbles with the storytelling aside, the book was fantastic. I have to say that Ender in Exile was probably the most enjoyable audiobook I’ve listened to in a long, long time. It’s been quite a while since I listen to audiobooks anywhere but my car, but this one made me bring it inside and listen to it through headphones at work and at home a few times. If you’re new to audiobooks or have never given the medium a shot, I can’t recommend a better way to get involved than Ender’s Game and Ender in Exile. Orson Scott Card and his team have really made some of the best, of not the best, listening experiences I’ve found.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.