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Much is made in other reviews of how this title drifts from the preceding ones and starts a new story. That's true, but it is also one of its strengths. This is less a "concluding" story (though it is somewhat) than a spinoff. If the first 4 books were All in the Family, this would be The Jeffersons (or is that The Jettersons?). There is just enough reference (and a character or two) from the other saga to bind the two together. Unlike the Ender saga, which sadly went on at least one book too long, this is the way to do it. Skip all the centuries after the main action and take a look at what the world might be like 500 years out. An interesting premise and one that authors don't often get to explore. (If you say, that's what Speaker for the Dead did, I can't disagree, but not as noticeably; there the backstory was less direct than this one.) I happened to like these characters very much--more so than the "Heroes" during the first book. (That one was a slow start, but worth it in the end.) Much is made of the religious themes in the book, but what is there so interesting about religion if not the conflict it engenders among people. The thinly veiled "bias" issues added a basis for conflict (and the oh-so-classic epithet "Digger Lover" was my favorite tongue in cheek line, just in case anyone had missed the point). Was the book about the Mormons? Probably not. Too many dissimilarities to the historical events of those times, though only Card knows for sure (golden plates was a cute touch). No, this book is nearly a standalone work showcasing Card's ability to create character studies with people and creatures out of the readers' normal ambit. The plot? Secondary. That it sort of tracks the first books? Convenient. It's all about the writing. Anyone who is disappointed that this book doesn't take up where #4 left off misses the point--it wasn't supposed to. I applaud Card for this imaginative approach and recommend this story to any of his fans.
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This book was a thoroughly disappointing end to a promising series. All the characters you've gotten to know and love are thrown away, and the allusions to Mormon doctrine are so overt as to be almost laughable. Really, just stop at Book 4. This book doesn't answer any of the questions or plot points brought up in the other books.
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