Unshelved comic strip for 10/1/2008

Sci-Fi Sequels

We read a lot of books that will never end up in the Unshelved Book Club. Sometimes we can't figure out how to pitch it, or which scene to illustrate, or how to frame it with our characters. And then there are the sequels. When we only discuss 52 books a year it doesn't really make sense to circle back and tell you about a sequel. But that doesn't stop us from reading them.

So, increasingly, Gene and I are going to use the blog to give you short reviews of books that, for one reason or another, don't make it into the Book Club, but which we think are worth mentioning.

Our very first Book Club was Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Since he wrote that book he's been trying to bury himself alive in sequels. Some follow the adventures of Ender, others secondary Game characters like Bean that have gone on to become fully realized in their own right. But Card never told us what happened to Ender in the immediate aftermath of the Bugger War, except in broad strokes. In Ender in Exile (doesn't come out until November, sorry) we follow Ender as Earth politics force him offplanet to become governer of the first human colony. I love the original so much that I never want to make space in my heart for another sequel, but most have been very good. This time around I was especially worried about the treatment of Ender and his sister Valentine. But Card continues to write from the heart. My only complaint is that the characters are so verbally acute that my disbelief sometimes got unsuspended in some of the dialogue. But it was so good to visit with Ender again that I forgave all.

Larry Niven wrote what might be the first sci-fi novel I ever read, Ringworld, only the first sequel to which is really worth reading. Ringworld takes place towards the end (chronologically) of his "Known Space" series of short stories and novels, my favorite sci-fi universe of all time. Niven must have decided that Known Space was large enough that some big stories never got told, because last year he teamed up with Edward M. Lerner to shoehorn in some major developments in Fleet of Worlds. It's one of those disappointing sequels where a bunch of new characters get created when, frankly, the old ones are who I want to hear from. Fortunately some of them are there too, and they help keep it just interesting enough to finish. But its sequel Juggler of Worlds just came out, and it's much more successful. There's just one major new character this time (one mentioned briefly in Fleet). He's great, and Niven and Lerner cleverly knit him into the fabric of dozens of classic Known Space stories. If you loved those old stories you will giggle as you see them from a new perspective, with a few existing characters fleshed out and a few old mysteries getting solved along the way.

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