An epic tale combining mystery and fantasy, Treason more than meets expectations--I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of Card's best. Although the storylines are completely different, Card visits moral dilemmas familiar to readers of the Ender series: is genocide an acceptable tradeoff for the salvation of an entire planet? Is the sacrifice of one individual justifiable for the greater good of an entire race? In Ender's Game, Card creates a cold and oppressive cage known as Battle School to confine young Ender. In Treason, Card creates a lush and diverse world for his protagonist Lanik Mueller to explore in his exile. Whereas Ender's growth is largely internal and self-driven, Mueller picks up extraordinary powers while walking the earth, meeting new people and learning new skills. Lanik is frequently forced to ask himself deeper questions about life, sacrifice, and identity, all the while understanding that the more he learns, the more complex and difficult his choices become. He starts the novel alone and a freak; saving his own skin is almost more than he can manage. He ends the novel with terrible powers and the responsibility that comes with them, forced to choose the best way to save a planet hurtling towards destruction and death. Unlike Ender, he is fully aware of the choice he must make, making his decision all the more anguishing and tragic.
Card takes many risks in creating a fantastic world that the reader must simply accept as is--this tale belongs more to the realm of fantasy than pure "science" fiction. Yet the risk pays off, making the reading experience all the more memorable. The reader is drawn in by the nature of the protagonist's grotesque transformation and the beauty of a world that stretches the imagination. The mystery and intrigue surrounding the planet's sudden power shifts keeps the plot moving nicely, and Card creates a strong and believable cast of characters to breathe life into the story, giving it a center and a soul. Finally, Card leaves the reader to ponder Lanik's decision in the face of a nearly impossible choice, in a world characterized not by black and white but by subtle shades of grey.
Treason will probably never garner the attention of a book like Ender's Game, but nevertheless it is an excellent and thought-provoking story. This book is a hidden gem in the canon of modern SF and fantasy literature that will reward the reader who takes the time to unearth it.