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First Meetings: In the Enderverse    by Orson Scott Card order for
First Meetings
by Orson Scott Card
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2003 (2003)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is an illustrated collection of four novellas, one of which (and the best by far) is the original version of Ender's Game, published in 1977 in Analog. Ender's Game is the story of child genius Ender Wiggins, used as a battle tool by his Macchiavellian elders, in order to save humanity from an alien enemy (the Buggers) who would otherwise destroy Earth. Ender comes close to burnout, and what he thought was only a game turns him into a universal pariah, 'Ender the Xenocide'. The author is renowned for many novels in this universe (or Enderverse), the latest series of which focus on Ender's young cohort, Bean (Ender's Shadow etc.)

First Meetings will be of special interest to Ender fans, since it begins with the childhood of Ender's father, John Paul in The Polish Boy, first published in 2002. No-one realizes that John Paul is a genius since his noncompliant Catholic parents (who have had more than the allowed two children) are much too busy just surviving, and their children are not permitted by the Hegemon to attend school. When his elder siblings undergo mandatory testing for Battle School, John Paul manipulates events in such a way that the family is relocated to America, where their situation is significantly improved.

Teacher's Pest covers the first meeting between Ender's parents and shows us their brief courtship. We've already met John Paul as a child, and now see him as a brash, brilliant, arrogant young man who falls for the brains and also the beauty of his Human Community teacher, Theresa Brown. Theresa is a grad student and the daughter of Hinckley Brown, a Mormon and the famed International Fleet military strategist who resigned over the population laws. Are John Paul and Theresa being manipulated into sharing their genes? Ultimately they don't care.

The last of the four, Investment Counselor, was first published in Far Horizons in 2000 and occurs centuries after the events of Ender's Game. Traveling continually through space with his sister Valentine, Andrew (Ender) Wiggins has just turned twenty, over four hundred years after his birth on Earth. Having reached an age of majority and come into his trust fund, he must deal with the complexity of taxes. The author saves his young hero from this agony (and obviously has some fun doing so) with an AI named Jane, who comes to his rescue and neatly sorts out all his problems, including a blackmailer.

If you haven't entered the Enderverse before, don't do so with this collection. Start with the full version of Ender's Game, then read Ender's Shadow and keep going from there. For Ender fans, though the collection doesn't reflect the author's usual depth (and Ender's Game will already be familiar), the other three novellas provide a fast, fun read that fills in some of Ender's early history, and gives us something to dream about at tax time.

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