A War of Gifts – An Ender Story
By Orson Scott Card; Read by Scott Brick and Stefan Rudnicki
2 CDs – Approx. 2.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Themes: / Science Fiction / Psychology / Christmas /
“The children come from many nations and many religions; and while they are being trained for war, religious conflict between them is not on the curriculum. But Dink Meeker, one of the older students, doesn’t see it that way. He thinks that giving gifts isn’t exactly a religious observation, and on Sinterklaaus Day he tucks a present into another student’s shoe. The War over Santa Claus will force everyone to make a choice.”
A War of Gifts is a Christmas story set on a space station near Earth. There, Zeck Morgan, an intelligent boy with a phenomenally retentive memory, sits as an unwanted draftee into a school for generals. His parents and he, are deeply religious, but since the students there come from every nation and religion on Earth no religious observance is allowed. So when two Dutch boys find a way to celebrate Sinterklaas Day Zeck maps out a plan to get himself home.
Set in “battle school” of Orson Scott Card’s famous Ender’s Game novel, and concordant with the events of that book we learn of a new student who has more than one reason not to want to be there. First, Zeck is a pacifist, second he’s deeply religious. Both of these things are absolutely anathema in battle school. There’s plenty of rumination, and plenty of issues too, many of which will make people squirm to hear. Card does no preaching, but its clear he understands it. Which makes the novelette all the more interesting. Now I’ve read and heard several reviews about this novelette that were pretty negative (Sci-Fi Weekly, Beam Me Up, SFReviews.net). The reviewers complained either that it was a ‘cheap way to cash in’ or that it ‘wasn’t up to Card’s usual writing standards’. Some also attributed a kind of religious bias towards Christianity too. I think that most of this criticism is uncharitable. That said, A War Of Gifts will not set a new high standard for Card or for Science Fiction. But it wasn’t intended to either. It is a modest story, well written and like all of the recent “Ender tales” about Ender’s Game it is primarily about the minor characters. A War Of Gifts isn’t an independent story. You really must have read and enjoyed Ender’s Game to appreciate it, and then you must also realize that these character stories are all psychological stories – stories of the people in a science fiction world and not about the science fiction world itself. What card does is take a complex person and decode them into psychologically understandability. He does it with a humane and unjaded eye. If you come at it without a lot of preconceptions I think you can quite enjoy it – as I most certainly did.
Scott Brick and Stefan Rudnicki trade off reading chapters and points of view in a narrative dance that is both seamless and elegant. As Card himself says…
“The ideal presentation of any book of mine is to have excellent actors perform in an audio only format.”
And that’s what has happened here. This two CD set is small and will fit into the stocking of most any kid who’s a fan of Ender’s Game, be that kid atheist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or even Christian. Because as the kids at battle school say, Christmas is a national holiday, not a religious one.
Posted by Jesse Willis