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A War of Gifts: An Ender Story [Mass Market Paperback]

Orson Scott Card
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 29 2009 Other Tales from the Ender Universe (Book 6)
Orson Scott Card offers a Christmas gift to his millions of fans with A War of Gifts, a short novel set during Ender's first years at the Battle School where it is forbidden to celebrate religious holidays.
 
The children come from many nations, many religions; 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 Sinterklaas Day he tucks a present into another student's shoe.

This small act of rebellion sets off a battle royal between the students and the staff, but some surprising alliances form when Ender comes up against a new student, Zeck Morgan. The War over Santa Claus will force everyone to make a choice.

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A War of Gifts: An Ender Story + Ender in Exile + Shadows in Flight
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Card returns to his Hugo and Nebula award-winning Enderverse saga (after 2005's Shadow of the Giant) with a heartwarming novella for the holidays. When Zeck Morgan, the young son of a puritanical minister, qualifies for admission into the International Fleet's Battle School, he is brought to the school against his will. Citing his pacifist religious beliefs, Zeck refuses to participate in any simulated war games, but when he sees a Dutch student give a friend a small present in celebration of Sinterklaas Day, he reports the violation of the school's rules against open religious observation and sparks an uproar over religious freedom and the significance of cultural traditions. Meanwhile, Zeck becomes a pariah until series hero Ender Wiggin finds a way to show him the real meaning of the holidays. Exploring themes of tolerance and compassion, this story about stuffing stockings is, fittingly, a perfect stocking stuffer for science fiction fans of all ages. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"An undeniable heavyweight. . . . This book combines Card's quirky style with his hard ethical dilemmas and sharply drawn portraits."--New York Daily News on Ender's Game

"Card has taken the venerable SF concepts of a superman and an interstellar war against aliens, and, with superb characterization, pacing, and language, combined them into a seamless story of compelling power."--Booklist on Ender's Game

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas at Battle School Dec 11 2007
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Science fiction and Christmas usually don't connect. They have different focuses, and not much in common.

But Orson Scott Card gives it a good try in the megabrief novella "A War of Gifts." Despite a rather abrupt ending, it's a pleasant little story with a dark side that one doesn't expect from a Christmas story, and a Scroogian main character who's hard to like.

That character is Zech Morgan, son of a fanatical preacher who condemns everything, and "purifies" Zech by beating him. Even when he's drafted into Battle School, which does not allow outward religious observance, he shows nothing but pious contempt for his classmates and superiors. But on Sinterklaas, one Dutch boy slips a gift into another's shoe. Zech sees and reports it, but their superior doesn't care.

Soon the other children have decided to pull a "Santa Claus" -- they'll exchange little gifts and favours over the holidays. But since Zech believes that Saint Nick is a tool of the devil, he disrupts the festive favors -- and it may take Ender Wiggin to show him what the real problem is.

Just a warning: this book is very short. Very short. As in, 130 smallish pages short -- if rendered in normal pages, it would be a fair-sized short story. But despite its brevity, it is a pleasant little story.

Half is a story about kids celebrating the spirit of Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Ramadan) despite their sterile, grim surroundings. Lots of fun, goodwill, and general holiday spirit. But about halfway through, it suddenly becomes darkly unfestive, as Ender tries to force Zech to confront -- without any "my father says" or Bible quotes -- the painful truth of his own feelings, and his father's cruelty.

Okay, readers will have picked that up long before.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great story telling Nov. 9 2013
By Frank
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
Interesting side story.I reccomend it if you are a fan of the Enderverse. Orson Scott card Delivers once again...

:)
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4.0 out of 5 stars another great "Ender" story Sept. 6 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a huge fan or Orson Scott Card as a writer. The Ender series and the parallel Bean series are just excellent writing. This book was a wonderful small addition to the series and I consider it a must read for any fan. A little extra insight into Ender's mind and soul. Enjoy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice! March 13 2010
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Yes, extremely short, but endearing, touching and as usual, Scott makes you think.

If you're a fan of Ender and have an affection to that grim place, Battle School, you'll like this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  116 reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christmas at Battle School Nov. 22 2007
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Science fiction and Christmas usually don't connect. They have different focuses, and not much in common.

But Orson Scott Card gives it a good try in the megabrief novella "A War of Gifts." Despite a rather abrupt ending, it's a pleasant little story with a dark side that one doesn't expect from a Christmas story, and a Scroogian main character who's hard to like.

That character is Zech Morgan, son of a fanatical preacher who condemns everything, and "purifies" Zech by beating him. Even when he's drafted into Battle School, which does not allow outward religious observance, he shows nothing but pious contempt for his classmates and superiors. But on Sinterklaas, one Dutch boy slips a gift into another's shoe. Zech sees and reports it, but their superior doesn't care.

Soon the other children have decided to pull a "Santa Claus" -- they'll exchange little gifts and favours over the holidays. But since Zech believes that Saint Nick is a tool of the devil, he disrupts the festive favors -- and it may take Ender Wiggin to show him what the real problem is.

Just a warning: this book is very short. Very short. As in, 130 smallish pages short -- if rendered in normal pages, it would be a fair-sized short story. But despite its brevity, it is a pleasant little story.

Half is a story about kids celebrating the spirit of Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Ramadan) despite their sterile, grim surroundings. Lots of fun, goodwill, and general holiday spirit. But about halfway through, it suddenly becomes darkly unfestive, as Ender tries to force Zech to confront -- without any "my father says" or Bible quotes -- the painful truth of his own feelings, and his father's cruelty.

Okay, readers will have picked that up long before. But Card imbues plenty of feeling into the story, including one bittersweet chapter about the Wiggin family Christmas without Ender. The main problem is that the ending is very abrupt -- it feels like Card lost interest after Zech and Ender's conversation, and wrapped it up as quickly as he could.

Zech is one of the most unpleasant lead characters in a Christmas story since Ebenezer Scrooge -- snotty, fanatical, hypocritical, and deliberately irritating. But Card inspires some pity for his miserable life, although thankfully Zech doesn't magically become lovably outgoing by the end. Ender's brief appearance is solid, but Peter's contemplation of his family situation is even better.

"A War of Gifts" is a bit darker and less festive than most Christmas stories, but still a nice little read for the holidays. Just don't expect more than a short story.
183 of 231 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great content, very disappointing Nov. 3 2007
By Too many toys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, folks who write reviews for the sake of writing reviews got here first. I preordered this book and waited anxiously for its arrival. When I opened the box my question was "Where's my book?". All I found was a poorly bound hardcover pamphlet.128 sparse pages in a book that looks like it was designed, printed and bound at my local Kinko's. I love OSC, but this overpriced short story is a disservice to his loyal fans. The brief content is of a quality that OSC fans have come to expect. Unfortunately these "reviewers" whose only interest seems to be getting their inane pseudo culture in print first are not serving to inform potential buyers. My advice is to wait until this is available used, preferably in paperback.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Christmas tale in Ender's universe Dec 3 2007
By Blake Petit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Orson Scott Card has long since earned his place among the true masters of science fiction with novels like Ender's Game, Pastwatch, the Homecoming series, and his alternate history/fantasy Tales of Alvin Maker. His Ender universe has been expanding for some time now, and this year he dives back into the time period of the first novel for a short Christmas tale, A War of Gifts.

In the original Ender's Game, Ender Wiggin was recruited, along with hundreds of the most brilliant children on Earth, to train in an orbital battle school for the day when the human race would have to repel an invasion from an alien race they only barely defeated once before. In A War of Gifts, the camera moves from Ender to another student at the school, Zeck Morgan. A fundamentalist Christian, Zeck refuses to participate in the wargames at the school, and when a pair of Dutch students participate in a Sinterklaas Day celebration (St. Nicholas' Day, on Dec. 6), he issues a complaint about their being able to express their religion while others are supressed.

The other kids don't take kindly to Zeck's reaction, however, and the children of Battle School begin a mini-mutiny, trying to find small ways to celebrate Christmas despite the protestations of the adults running the show. In the end, Zeck has to face Ender to discover a truth hidden from everyone, even himself.

This story fits neatly between the pages of Ender's Game and makes for a highly unique Christmas tale. Most Christmas stores these days are more secular in nature -- about Santa and Frosty and the like -- and I really have no problem with that. those Christmas stories that do incorporate the spiritual aspects of the holiday deal with Jesus's birth (lest we forget that's the whole point) or about angels coming to Earth to work some Christmas miracle for a stingy curmudgeon or some lonely woman who just wants a boyfriend for Christmas. (I'm pretty sure the latter is a Lifetime movie.) A War of Gifts is different in that it's neither about the secular aspects or the faith-based aspects, but instead is more about religion itself -- the conflict between different faiths and different denominations is the crux of the story, as an outward projection of Zeck's internal struggles. For such a slim volume, it's a great character study, and yet another example of how Card can write children remarkably well, even when the children are super-geniuses.

I wouldn't recommend the book if you haven't read Ender's Game, as many of the subtleties will be lost. (There's an early chapter, for example, featuring Ender's older brother that really has nothing to do with the plot of A War of Gifts, but is highly telling if you've read the other books in the series.) If you are a fan of Card, though, this is a very strong Christmas tale definitely belongs on your bookshelf. Don't worry. At 128 pages, it won't take up much room.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful élan and subtlety Dec 4 2007
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The physical dimensions of Orson Scott Card's diminutive new seasonal story, A WAR OF GIFTS, brought out the Christmas stocking-stuffer in me right away. What a "cute" little book, I thought.

A cozy evening of reading later, I was amazed at the breadth and depth of wisdom I encountered within a mere 126-postcard-sized pages. The journey to Card's futuristic world of the popular Ender series --- specifically to an elite Battle School for preteen children housed in an orbiting space station above Earth --- offers a concentrated experience of artificially constructed peer-group societies in which any deviation from prescribed behavioral norms carries enormous risk.

Created to indoctrinate the younger generation by weaning students away from any "distracting" attachments to family, culture, religion, ethnicity, passion, altruism and the like, Battle School's mandate is to select the best, brightest and potentially most dangerously independent children and reform them into wholly focused galactic warriors. In essence, however, Battle School is really an ultra-sophisticated and high-tech version of old-style American boot-camp training --- or, perhaps more potently for Canadians, the infamous "residential" schools of the 19th and early 20th centuries, where aboriginal children were forced to learn in an environment stripped of their native traditions and languages.

But Card (despite having abundant theological qualifications to do so) doesn't spend time abstractly moralizing or preaching from some distant pulpit about various forms of child abuse, war-footing mentality or social conditioning. He mainly leaves it to a group of precocious and inventive young boys who discover (or re-discover) the joys and challenges of daring to celebrate anything not on Battle School's strictly secular and utilitarian curriculum.

It all starts with two feisty Dutch lads, whose staunch pride in a small nation that built itself from the sea comes out in a lighthearted but surreptitious observance of Sinterklaas Day. In Dutch tradition, children put their shoes outside the door, hoping that the legendary saint of random generosity will fill them with treats. North Americans know him of course as Santa Claus.

When the hopeful shoe ritual is reciprocated, the effect spreads throughout the orbiting academy, first as a ripple, then as a tidal wave of long-suppressed national and religious traditions that come bubbling to the surface, regardless of rules and regulations. Muslim students renew their five daily prayers, Jewish students remember the High Holidays and Hanukkah, Christian students dare to talk about Christmas and how their families down on earth will celebrate it without them.

But the key to Card's deft insight into human behavior under discouraging conditions is the presence of one little boy whose extreme fundamentalist upbringing makes him the kind of fanatical kid who is usually disliked and avoided by everyone. Convinced that all traditions but his own are inherently evil, he sets about trying to sabotage his colleagues' morale-building fun by reporting them so often that even the Battle School authorities wish he would simply get lost.

The real story behind A WAR OF GIFTS --- the story that reads much better than I would presume to describe it --- is how a group of boys, isolated on the threshold of personal and collective maturity, discover, almost accidentally, the indispensable grace of roots and redemption. No one tells these perennial truths with more delightful élan and subtlety than Orson Scott Card.

This little book with its big and generous ideas belongs on your holiday reading and gift list and is suitable for any age.

--- Reviewed by Pauline Finch (paulinefinch@rogers.com)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Nov. 28 2007
By Thomas Tuoti - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I like the Ender series a lot, so when this came out I read it almost the same week. Many people may be dissapointed by the 128 page book, (much shorter than other books by the author), but he never promised a new novel, just a gift for his readers during the holiday season. And the books not that bad, in fact, I'd recommend it. Of course, if you don't like any of the Ender series, this is probably not for you, but for a relative who loves the series, this is a great stocking stuffer.
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