The Authorized Ender Companion
Tor (432 pp, $27.99, November 2009)
Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
One of my most prized possessions is a signed hardcover copy of Orson Scott Card’s Hugo and Nebula award winning Ender’s Game. Before the signature, Card inscribed “A survival guide for geniuses.” This is a wonderful tagline for Ender’s Game, which has spoken to a full generation of science fiction fans. Now, Jake Black has written a complete and authorized companion to the set of nine (so far) novels and assorted short stories – the Enderverse, as it is known to fans.
The bulk of The Authorized Ender Companion is taken up by the 315-page “Ender Encyclopedia,” which lists every individual, place, or thing that shows up anywhere in the Enderverse. This ranges from the detailed (a 15-page entry on Bean and 20-page entry on Ender) to the passing (such as the one-line entry that reminds us all what a “barkdancer” is). Probably one of the best entries is the 3-page lexicon of Battle School Slang.
The end of the Encyclopedia lists all of the sources, which is very helpful for those of us who haven’t yet read all of the short stories, followed by a couple of pages of “Ender’s Time Line” which, while interesting, is in print that is so small you may need a magnifying glass. (Note: I read an advanced review copy, so hopefully some sane editor will decided that this must be enlarged for the final edition.) Beyond the Encyclopedia, however, are some of the more substantive aspects of this book and the ones that fans should really be looking forward to.
Aaron Johnston, a member of Card’s production company, provides a 30-page essay, “Getting Ender Right,” about the ins and outs of getting the Ender’s Game movie made. This provides a lot of interesting information and a behind-the-scenes look at how books get adapted into movies, but it misses the one piece of information crucial to a fan: a date. Still, the essay provides encouragement that a movie version of Ender will hit the screen within our lifetime.
Next comes the twenty-eight page “The Technology of Ender’s Game,” by Stephen Sywak. This covers everything from the star drive technology and ansible, to the Battle School design itself, including Battle Room, flash suits, and even the computer desks. A note at the beginning of the essay indicates that Card was aware of Sywak’s early analysis while working on the later novels.
The final thirty plus pages of the book are devoted to letters from “Friends of Ender.” This is the heart of the Enderverse … the stories of how the story has impacted people profoundly. Ender’s Game and the related stories are about trying to find your place in the world and doing anything to survive in that world. It is about making the hard choices, when you want nothing more than to make no choices at all. These letters from children and parents, students and teachers, writers and readers, connect those of us who have been shaped by our contact with Ender.
If you’re one of those people, then you’ll probably treasure this book. If not, then it’s not for you… go get the original and see why Ender has so many friends