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BigJim
2003-May-31, 12:21 AM
I don't have much time to write a review right now but perhaps you could add your thoughts.

BA in Ender's Game

Spoilers











The "hook." They never explain how that works, some garbage with gravitational manipulation.

Actually, there is a lot of garbage with gravity manipulation.

The ansible - it would violate the laws of relativity which the book actually treated pretty well earlier.

Dr. Device- it is never explained how it "disassembles molecules" nor why the field increases each time it finds a target.


Other than those, I thought that the astronomy was actually pretty good in Ender's Game.

mutant
2003-May-31, 01:00 AM
Say what you want about Ender's game, but it is one of the best SF books I have ever read. Some of the sequels got kind of lame but Enders Shadow was also very good.

gethen
2003-May-31, 03:28 PM
Just have to mention that the ansible, as used in Ender's Game turns up in other writers' books as well. The original idea was from Ursula LeGuin's Hainish novels. I think her book, The Dispossessed, has a better explanation of how it's supposed to work. She also came up with the term "chertle" to describe a faster than light travel that is as much mysticism as science, but it also was borrowed by sf writers of note. Not defending the science, as I am incapable of such, just offering an interesting (I hope) footnote.

g99
2003-May-31, 06:41 PM
And don't forget that in the next book the ansible comes alive and has thought processes on its own! :-)

kilopi
2003-May-31, 07:16 PM
And don't forget that in the next book the ansible comes alive and has thought processes on its own! :-)
And controls the flow of intergalactic credit and throws snits when it's miffed.

And it's a fanzine with a FAQ about the term (http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/SF-Archives/Ansible/faq.html).

David Hall
2003-May-31, 08:49 PM
I think her book, The Dispossessed, has a better explanation of how it's supposed to work.

The ansible seems to have become yet another of those SF concepts that has leapt from one author's universe to others (See the Tannhauser Gate (http://www.badastronomy.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=5395) thread, for another example).

The Disposessed was a good book. It doesn't really explain how the ansible works, it just documents how it came about. In it, the protagonist is struggling to complete some revolutionary new physics concepts he had been working on (perhaps a GUT? I don't really remember now). He especially found the works of the Earth physicist, "Ainstain" to be a big help, but he was attempting to move beyond them. When he finally finishes his work, we discover he's found a way to circumvent the light-speed barrier. Unfortunately, it's still impractical to move physical objects, but it is enough to allow for faster-than-light communication. All of this comes about against the background of a cultural revolution on the twin planet system it's set in.

The only other Hainish title I've read was The Left Hand of Darkness. By the time of this story the ansible has become a workable tecnology, and it plays a pretty important part in the story (as Gethen should know ;-)).

Wingnut Ninja
2003-Jun-01, 05:44 AM
It's not really bad astronomy, it's just that he doesn't explain the details of how everything works -- which, from Ender's perspective, makes perfect sense. The kids in the book don't need to know how it works, just that it does.

darkhunter
2003-Jun-01, 09:59 AM
It's not really bad astronomy, it's just that he doesn't explain the details of how everything works -- which, from Ender's perspective, makes perfect sense. The kids in the book don't need to know how it works, just that it does.

That's the beauty of "universal" concepts like the ansible, Tannhuaser's gate, hyperspace, etc. an author can throw it in to further the plot and not have to go into an explanation of how it works because the reader has a rough grasp of it from other books where it is explained. If nessesary, all the author has to do is incorporate their quirks on how it works for the purposes of their storyline (Asimov's hyperspace being instantaneous vs Nivens blind spot...)

With these concepts the author can just move along in his story...

edit: spelllin and italics

gethen
2003-Jun-01, 09:54 PM
I think her book, The Dispossessed, has a better explanation of how it's supposed to work.

The only other Hainish title I've read was The Left Hand of Darkness. By the time of this story the ansible has become a workable tecnology, and it plays a pretty important part in the story (as Gethen should know ;-)).

I've read most of the other Hainish novels and enjoyed every one, but, of course, The Left Hand of Darkness is my favorite. I do seem to recall that she studied physics before becoming a writer, so maybe she just knew better than to try to postulate an actual FTL theory.

daver
2003-Jun-02, 07:51 PM
I do seem to recall that she studied physics before becoming a writer, so maybe she just knew better than to try to postulate an actual FTL theory.

I don't know about that--she wouldn't have to know much physics to know that FTL communications is just as bad as FTL travel. Either one generates causality violations or a preferred reference frame.

gethen
2003-Jun-02, 09:11 PM
I guess what I meant was that she didn't try to come up with a legitimate method of FTL flight or communications. She left it in the realm of mysticism where it was more or less exempt from scientific criticism. When she did, in later novels, introduce FTL travel, she did the same thing. Didn't try to describe an actual scientific explanation for the pricess, just introduced it.

daver
2003-Jun-02, 09:55 PM
Which is a perfectly valid way of dealing with things. Much better than having the handsome second in command explain to the pretty young socialite how their ship can exceed the speed of light. The shortcoming is that you should maintain consistency, which isn't too hard with one person doing the writing, but much harder when you have, say, a tv series whose writers seem to be technobabble junkies.

Rodina
2003-Jun-03, 01:31 AM
Orson Scott Card has put it best:

"As science, of course, [the Ansible] is pure nonsense--yet it is so useful that many [science fiction writers] have used some variation of it. After all, we're not trying to predict the future, only to tell a story in a strange place!"

- Orson Scott Card "How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy", Writers Digest Books, 1990.


Don't let the good story get sacrificed on the altar of perfect science, at least not when the author (like Card) has such a history of solid work that you can trust that anything he changes, he changes on purpose. He's not being sloppy.

calliarcale
2003-Jun-03, 04:08 PM
I always had the impression that Card *meant* for the ansible to be impossible. After all, humans didn't invent it and they don't know why it works. It's said several times in the books that according to the available science, the ansible shouldn't work. To be fair, I've only finished the first two so far. (I'm saving "Xenocide" for when I'm in the hospital to have my first baby in a couple of months!) But I always thought it an interesting literary device -- introducing a technology that can't possibly work (a technology which is essentially magic, if you use Clarke's terminology -- "any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic") in order to put a neccesary dollop of humility on top of all of the fantastic feats humans are performing in this futuristic world. They're advanced way beyond anything we can acheive, and yet they've still found something so fantastically more advanced they cannot begin to comprehend it.

tracer
2003-Jun-03, 06:18 PM
Just have to mention that the ansible, as used in Ender's Game turns up in other writers' books as well. The original idea was from Ursula LeGuin's Hainish novels.
Um ... I'm pretty sure the idea of FTL communications pre-dates LeGuin.

Heck, the space ships in E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman books could communicate faster-than-light with their leaders back in Civilization, as I recall -- and most of the Lensman series was written in the 1930s.

informant
2003-Jun-03, 06:22 PM
Yes, but the word ansible was introduced by LeGuin.