Most series are written in order with one book following on from another. Occasionally a writer may write a later book that fits chronologically earlier in the sequence. Sometimes an author writes one series and then starts another based on some characters from the first, or taking place in the same setting, or set many years before or after the initial books. It can be a minefield untangling this for some writers and I very much recommend the website Fantastic Fiction which lists an author’s books in series and shows the publication date to help you sort out how things fit together. They also help with series where different books are written by different authors.
Orson Scott Card is best known for his book Ender’s Game which I first discovered many years ago and which I have loved ever since. This book is set in a future earth where there is colonisation on other planets and war against an alien species known as the “bugs”. Ender has a large part to play in the defeat of the bugs and his story continues in Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind which trace his future life in colonies and explore all sorts of ideas including identity, religion and survival. In addition, the author also started an offshoot series based on characters introduced in the first book and following their lives and events on earth which is known as the Shadow series.
Ender’s Exile is a comparatively new book and is set chronologically just after Ender’s Game. It tells the story of what happens when Ender has to leave earth and of the beginning of life on the colonies. It recounts the discovery of the Hive Queen who features in the other books of his series and fills in a few gaps. In theory you should read it second in order but actually it references, but doesn’t always explain, events from the Shadow series. You can’t, however, totally understand the shadow series unless you have read all the Ender books. This means that, irrespective of chronology, you have to read Ender’s Exile as the final book to get the most from it.
It is interesting to revisit Ender in those early years and the author has a lot to say about starting colonies and setting up new lives. We also explore the issue of being unable to return home after your service but not really having another role. I don’t think this is as good as many of the other books in the two series but it is an interesting read for those of us who enjoy the world that the author has created.
I need also to mention that there are issues with the author. Orson Scott Card is a Mormon who holds some homophobic views which have been widely expressed on social media. A lot of people have campaigned for readers to boycott his books and not give him any more money. I had purchased all of his titles except this one before I became aware of this and I purchased this title second-hand so no royalties went to the author. I find this a difficult subject because I do enjoy these books and I think that they are classics of their genre. I don’t think that I will purchase any more of the author’s books and will look for authors whose views are not so publically divergent from my own. I won’t dispose of my copies though and will almost certainly read them again.