Orson Scott Card’s novels (in hardcover, several autographed) own the lion’s share of the top shelf in my main bookcase. Though he is one of my favorite authors, I’ve read enough of his work to know that it can be, at best, inconsistent. Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead are science fiction classics and also modern classics of children literature. As a teenager, in tears when Ender and Valentine bid each other farewell in Speaker, I thought, “I want to write like this someday.”
But Card does not always hit the mark, either. Xenocide and Children of the Mind are nowhere near classics, even though they are part of the same series. While I have enjoyed all of the Ender’s Shadow books (featuring the secondary character, Bean, from Ender’s Game), they don’t possess the same magic, either. In some ways, they are better than the originals – better character motivation, better structure, better dialogue – but they are not classics. They are not better stories, just better plots.