First Meetings in Ender’s Universe is a collection of short stories that further develop Orson Scott Card’s popular Ender’s Game series.
In “The Polish Boy,” John Paul Wieczorek, Ender’s father, is an exceptionally bright young boy, but he is lost in the midst of his large Catholic family. His mother thinks that he is simply flipping the pages of the adult books that he regularly devours and gives him boring copy work during the school day. Then government agents come to administer an intelligence test, and it just may change their entire lives.
John Paul Wieczorek has become John Paul Wiggin, an American college student, in “Teacher’s Pest.” He meets the future Mrs. Wiggin when he is enrolled in her class and is captivated by this woman who just may be smarter than he is. They seem to be a perfect match for creating a super-intelligent child, but is that someone’s intention or a lucky accident?
“Ender’s Game” is the original award-winning short story that was published in 1977 and expanded into a novel in 1986. If you haven’t read the full novel yet and wish to do so, it would be best to skip this story and return to it later. While it is a quality stand-alone story, it gives away several important plot points of the larger work. The story focuses on Ender Wiggin, the youngest commander ever at Battle School and the way that he trains his army for war games before moving on to larger struggles that almost destroy him.
The battles are over in “The Investment Counselor,” and Ender has left Earth to travel through the space colonies with his sister. Because of the speed at which he has traveled through space, Ender is now 20 years old, but around 400 years have passed on Earth. When stopping at a new colony, he suddenly finds himself having to deal with the taxes accrued by a 400-year-old trust fund, and finds help in a uniquely personalized computer program.
As a reviewer, I must admit, though, that I come to this book as a devoted fan of the series. On the whole, the collection is an enjoyable read and adds new information to an already interesting sci-fi universe. For fellow Ender fans, this book nicely fills the gap before the next Shadow book. The casual reader might be better served by reading Ender’s Game first so that they can fully appreciate this work. At the same time, the stories follow a logical progression so that new readers won’t be lost; they will simply miss out on the importance of some details.
First Meetings in Ender’s Universe is labeled a “Tor Teen Book.” That may be the book’s one flaw. Each of the stories is illustrated, but the pictures often seem overly cartoon-like as if they are going for a graphic novel style to target a younger audience, which doesn’t fit the serious tone of the stories. Just because Ender’s Game involves young characters doesn’t make it a kids’ book. If you are an adult and come across this collection, don’t be scared off by the study questions at the end or the other signs that might make you think that this book is too “young” for you. Orson Scott Card tells great stories for readers of all ages.