#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Children of the Fleet by Orson Scott Card
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: Book 1 of Fleet School
Publisher: Tor Books (October 10, 2017)
Length: 384 pages
I confess, I’m not too well-versed in the Enderverse, with Ender’s Game being the extent of my experience with the series. Still, I was drawn to the Children of the Fleet because it was pitched to me as the beginning of a new story arc which runs parallel to the events on Earth as told in the Ender’s Shadow sequence, so I decided to give it a try in the hopes that I won’t get too lost.
In this novel, we are given the first look into Battle School, now re-purposed and renamed to Fleet School ever since Ender Wiggin brought an the end of the Formic Wars. Our protagonist is an 11-year-old named Dabeet Ochoa, a highly intelligent but also extremely arrogant little boy. Raised by his overbearing mother, he desperately wants to escape his life surrounded by mediocrity. His dream is to attend Fleet School which he believes is his prerogative, since—according to his mother—Dabeet’s father is an officer in the International Fleet who got her pregnant and then abandoned them both.
In truth though, Dabeet holds little faith in his mother’s claims, but believes that his high intelligence scores and academic merits should be enough to get him accepted. Fleet school may have been repurposed, but its mission remains the same: to recruit the best and the brightest children, and train them to become humanity’s future leaders. Naturally, filled with his own sense of self-importance, Dabeet believes he belongs in this group. Surely, if he sends enough inquiries and writes enough essays, he’s bound to catch someone’s attention. And indeed, one day Dabeet gets a surprise visit. Turning up on his doorstep is none other than Golonel Graff, the man who mentored Ender Wiggin and is now the head of the Ministry of Colonization, the administrative arm that runs Fleet School. However, to Dabeet’s surprise and bewilderment, the meeting doesn’t exactly go as he thought it would.
What follows is a story that mirrors Ender’s Game in a lot of ways, but also offers a few new spins on a familiar premise. We are once more thrust into a coming-of-age narrative that takes place in a sci-fi military school setting, but changes have definitely been made now that the alien threat is no more. Additionally, a much greater emphasis is placed on Dabeet’s personal journey and emotional growth, making Children of the Fleet more of a character study than an action-oriented adventure. In other words, the tactical training and battle games take a backseat to our protagonist’s own journey of self-discovery, evaluation, and eventual realization.
How you feel about this story will hinge upon how you feel about Dabeet. His character is at the center of this narrative, a singularly unique personality that demonstrates resolve, autonomy, and intelligence—all traits that should make him a natural leader, except he possesses not a shred of humility or social grace. Arguably, he is unlikeable by design. Exceptional even among the other gifted students at his school on Earth, Dabeet never met an intellectual challenge he couldn’t conquer, filling him with overconfidence and pride. He also has few friends, believing himself superior over others. His entire worldview is shaken, however, once he arrives at Fleet School and discovers just how average he is, surrounded by his fellow cadets who are equally talented, if not more so, than himself. Gradually, Dabeet realizes he must overcome his flaws in order to succeed, even if that also means forging relationships and working with others.
Although I never did warm to Dabeet, the later sections of the book showing his efforts to change his ways and become something more admittedly did make me feel more sympathetic towards his character. There’s also a background situation involving a conspiracy which our protagonist must try to uncover before his time runs out, and I found myself rooting for him to succeed. That said, I wouldn’t say I was riveted by this story because it was rather tame and slow to build (not to mention, we’re never given the full answers behind what is happening at MinCol even by the end of the book). At the same time though, I loved the greater focus on character building and development. Finally, because this novel is all about Dabeet, I found that I was able to jump into this book with minimal knowledge of the Enderverse and still follow along with no problems.
All told, I thought Children of the Fleet did a great job presenting a different point of view, letting us glimpse this post-Formic Wars universe through the eyes of a fascinating protagonist. Love him or hate him, Dabeet Ochoa is the kind of character who will stick in your mind, and hopefully his addition to this saga will open up many doors to future possibilities and new horizons.