The war is over. With a little help from his friends, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin defeated an alien threat and saved the world. Unfortunately, in order to stop the aliens, a race of hive-minds dubbed "formics," Ender had to massacre the lot. He didn't realize what he was doing, but it was done, and now the burden of xenocide rests on his 13-year-old shoulders. He can't go back to Earth; his military genius makes him a threat to every country that doesn't have him leading its army, and his ennui makes him terrible company for everyone else. With his sister Valentine, he decides to travel with a group of colonists across space to one of the recently emptied formic planets. There, he can learn more about the creatures whose lives he extinguished, and find a purpose to fill the rest of his days.
Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is an inarguable classic of science fiction. Its sequels, Speaker For The Dead and Xenocide, take more defending, since they lose Game's remarkable pace and power, and sub in increasingly obscure philosophical meanderings. From there, things got complicated, as Card released book after book following the adventures of Ender's schoolmates, particularly Bean, a boy whose brilliance equaled Ender's. As with all long-running series, the further out the Ender books go, the more difficult it becomes for new fans to find a way inside. Ender In Exile sounds like the perfect alternative; it operates as Game's direct sequel. Some knowledge of the Bean books helps, but essentially, there's no research required.
So why does Exile feel so thoroughly useless? Game is essential for the intensity of its plotting, but that urgency is sorely missing here. There's no real plot at all; as Card explains in his Afterward, Exile takes place roughly between chapters 14 and 15 of Ender's Game, making it a novel without form that serves mostly to fill in some blanks that were never all that blank to begin with. Occasional scenes are attention-grabbers, but even the book's best moments are disjointed and airless, a series of dialogues without a place to be or clear characters to deliver them. Flashes of craft notwithstanding, Exile is something only completists would ask for, and only its author could love.