This is clearly not programming related, but with the Ender’s Game movie opening in November, I know quite a few people who are digging into Ender’s universe for the first time. I’ve been asked (more than once!) to sort out the maze of books and short stories into some kind of order. I’m no expert and I won’t go into the same level of detail as The Machete Order did for Star Wars, but here’s my recommended reading order for the Ender’s Game series, including short stories:
- Ender’s Game
Young Man with Prospects
Ender in Flight
The Polish Boy
Mazer in Prison
A War of Gifts
- Speaker for the Dead
- Children of the Mind
- Ender’s Shadow
- Shadow of the Hegemon
- Shadow Puppets
- Shadow of the Giant
- Shadows in Flight
- Ender in Exile
- Earth Unaware
- Earth Afire
All things being equal, a publication-order reading of the Ender series is recommended. I find this order better because the many connections and references between various short stories and books are too subtle to be appreciated unless the fuller story has already been told. However, there are a few changes to this order that I recommend.
The chronological (and topical) gap between Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead is quite significant. It is the perfect chance to remain in the era of the Battle School before continuing on with Ender’s storyline. Further, the Shadow series is too tightly woven to be broken apart, even though some of the short stories might fit a bit better chronologically. With this decision made, we are now forced to choose between the book Ender in Exile and its four constituent stores “Ender’s Homecoming”, “Young Man with Prospects”, “Ender in Flight”, and “Gold Bug”. Since the book makes a few additional connections with the Shadow series, I recommend postponing Ender in Exile until after the complete Shadow series. This leaves us with the four short stories immediately following Ender’s Game. These stories provide just enough time for the Ender story to settle a bit before circling back on life before the Battle School with short stories “The Polish Boy” and “Teacher’s Pest”. Then we can segue back to the Battle School with “Mazer in Prison”, “Pretty Boy”, and “Cheater”.
At this point, I recommend A War of Gifts which occurs during Ender’s time at Battle School. “Ender’s Stocking” can be skipped as it is essentially Chapter 2 of A War of Gifts.
Immediately before you slide back into the Ender series with Speaker for the Dead, I strongly recommend “Investment Counselor” (not just before; immediately before). Then, after Speaker for the Dead, continue on with Xenocide and Children of the Mind.
Now the Ender saga is complete. (with the exception of Ender in Exile) Take a few weeks off and then dive into the Shadow series: Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, Shadow of the Giant and Shadows in Flight.
Cap the whole thing off with Ender in Exile. Chronologically, it dives right back into the middle of everything, but I feel it’s much better to postpone this book until all of the character references are clear.
The final trilogy is still being written, but Earth Unaware is already available and Earth Afire should be available by the time you read this.