Monday, September 7, 2009

Book Review: Children of the Mind

Children of the Mind by Orson Scott Card

When I finished Card’s excellent book Speaker for the Dead, I was looking forward to reading Children of the Mind more than Xenocide. The reason for this, is that Card introduced in Speaker a monastic order called the Children of the Mind of Christ . They intrigued me, and I assumed that Children of the Mind would be about them. It’s not. What it is about is all the weird, cheap and stupid ideas introduced at the end of the last book. These ideas are not very interesting, they allow for all kinds of dues ex machina moments and simultaneously create countless plot holes.What is more, these ideas don't really fit in the universe established in the first two books, making the reader feel cheated.

Children of the Mind is far from being the worst book ever, but it’s definitely the worst of Card’s books I’ve read. The book was, more than anything else, entirely uninspiring, and oftentimes rather boring. Most of the characters I really cared about were pushed to the side, and the plot drags on in melodramatic concern for an issue you know from the start is going to be resolved. It’s also incredibly annoying that one of the two major dilemmas of the book was already resolved in the last one, and Card simply chose to ignore that fact.

The one side plot I found interesting was one involving the search for and interaction with a new alien race. What Card did best in his first two books was making his aliens truly alien and interesting (actually, another one of the problems with Xenocide and Children of the Mind both is that they spend too much time in the minds of the aliens, to the point where they really become less alien and less interesting). Unfortunately, this search is something that he leaves hanging at the end of this book, though he’s promised another one to resolve it and I’ll probably end up reading it when it comes.

Ultimately, Children of the Mind rather crashes and burns and, combined with Xenocide, makes for a disappointing follow up to two excellent novels. Xenocide might be worth reading for the characters, but there’s really no reason to read Children of the Mind. If you take my advice, you’ll skip this book.