Among the many classics of science fiction literature, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has maintained a place far above even others that have been remembered for decades. When I was only a child in a family where scifi books were well-loved, Ender’s Game was the scifi book. I am unsure if it was my first introduction to the world of science fiction – I think not, there was an ancient paperback collection of short stories, as much pulp fiction as scifi, that I can recall thumbing through in various reading nooks – but it was one of my first exposures to the genre and it was one that stayed with me all my life. Having now re-read it, and having finished its sequel as well (with intentions to read the rest of the series), I can say that my memory of Ender’s Game had been both true and almost … mythologized over the years, faded in places, yes, but more than that. I had come to think about the book itself as somehow carrying, harboring, embodying not only all of the talk that scifi fans I knew had surrounded it with, but also all the talk and thought that I had come to craft for myself with reference to it. It is, I realize now, both the book I thought it was and, at the same time, perhaps no greater than many other works of science fiction. I say this not to diminish the wonder of Ender’s Game, because it is still among the shortstack of books I would hand to someone exploring scifi for the first time, but I say it because I now see the book as Card himself meant it to be: it is the prelude to the truly great work – Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
It’s a journey that you take along with the main character, as she grows and changes, struggles and learns, and as the people around her do the same. I love how poetic it is, how honest it is in its darkness without tending toward sensationalism. As a reader (especially with Lynne Thigpen’s fantastic audiobook performance), you become as horrified and as cynical as the primary characters at times, but you (like they) can never fully let go of that hope that there must be something more to find, to build, at the end of all that hardship and suffering, a way to survive, even thrive. And even through all the challenges and the loss, there are still those moments – of laughter, of beauty, of communion … of positive humanity, It is gorgeous, a masterfully written and authentic-to-humanity work and world.
It reminds me why I fell in love with Octavia Butler’s writing in the first place.