‘Children of the Fleet’ by Orson Scott Card begins approximately eight years after the Battle School is retrofitted into a school for potential explorers and colonizers.
The novel centers on Dabeet Ochoa, a shrewd and socially inept 11-year-old boy, whose arrogance prevents him from befriending the easy going Fleet School students. Early in the novel, Dabeet finds himself involved in a dangerous plot that puts the life of the only he person he loves (and several others) at risk. Can he unravel the mysteries of Fleet School in time to save them?
Although the premise sounds thrilling, I had doubts about the uniqueness of Dabeet’s character. Do we really need another genius boy like Ender, Bean and Bingwen to revolutionize some aspect of the International Fleet? Although the novel touts that Dabeet is smarter than Ender, his glaring social problems (read: complete obliviousness) give him enough character flaws to differentiate him a true hero like Ender or Bean. Dabeet is the refreshing antihero I never knew the Enderverse needed.
Comparing ‘Children of the Fleet’ to the rest of the Enderverse, readers will find the novel less sophisticated than the Speaker Series and slower-paced than both Formic War trilogies and the Shadow Series.
This slow pace reflects the relatively peaceful state the IF relishes post-war. The end of the Third Invasion means that the IF is no longer in the business of developing child soldiers and commanders. Instead, Fleet School is the place were CEOs, IF soldiers and notable free miner families send their children to study how to become bureaucratic leaders and valuable members of future colonies.
The battle room and its pretty amazing upgrades remain a part of the school’s curriculum, but the game is not valued nearly as much to these students. Overall, Fleet School is too different from Battle School to satisfy the want for more intense battles like those in ‘Ender’s Game’ and ‘Ender’s Shadow’. However, the mystery of who’s behind the dangerous plot and who are Dabeet’s parents are will send readers racing to finish ‘Children of the Fleet’. I was pleasantly surprised to learn these answers.
The biggest highlight of this novel is Hyrum Graff’s return as Minister of Colonization, or MinCol for short. Graff’s verbal sparring with Dabeet is every bit as great as his verbal sparring with Ender or Bean. It’s really lovely how Graff can cut a student with both harsh words and unexpected softness. I particularly loved this line:
“Are you saying I’m not nice?” asked Dabeet. “There’s now a niceness test for getting into Battle School?”
“There always was,” said Graff.
I also loved how strongly ‘Children of the Fleet’ ties together the rest of the Enderverse. The novel neatly nestles itself between the plots of ‘Ender in Exile’ and the Shadow Series with several nods to the Formic War trilogies. During this time, Ender is on his way to govern Shakespeare colony and Bean and the rest of the Battle School students are raging a war on Earth.
The only problem I can find here is that this further complicates the question, “Which book should I read after ‘Ender’s Game’?” A reader could choose either ‘Ender is Exile’, ‘Speaker for the Dead’, ‘Ender’s Shadow’, ‘War of Gifts’, ‘Earth Unaware’, and now ‘Children of the Fleet’.
For anyone wondering what the answer is, Card says that the reading order doesn’t matter so long as ‘Xenocide’ is read just before ‘Children of the Mind’. I always recommend reading the novels in publication order to avoid spoiling certain plots. For example, ‘Children of the Fleet’ provides a few spoilers to the Formic War trilogies. However, in this case I think that the spoilers are so minor that most readers would overlook them. It would be harmless to read the Formic War trilogies before or after ‘Children of the Fleet’.
Truthfully, ‘Fleet School’ isn’t one of my favorite books in the Enderverse, but I did enjoy it much more than Card’s last solo adventure in the Enderverse (‘Shadows in Flight’). I think this novel and the other novels to be published in the Fleet School series are much more suited to a younger audience, which was Card’s intention from the start. I still plan on reading the rest of the Fleet School series because I’m hooked on knowing who Dabeet’s other parent is.
‘Children of the Fleet’ is available for purchase on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Lastly, I’d like to remind readers that a sequel to ‘Children of the Fleet’, called Renegat, will be published in a short story anthology on October 17.