I have not read all the books but did any of the space fleet crew come home after the final attack? Mazer Rackham comments about it being the last exercise could be interpreted as these are the only ships left.

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    Which of the books have you read? – Möoz Nov 1 '17 at 1:37
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    Which comments of Mazer's are you referring to? Are you asking about just the fleet sent to the bugger homeworld or are you asking about those sent to the other bugger planets and outposts? – ibid Nov 1 '17 at 19:59

Using only Ender's Game as reference.


Sadly, I do not have a copy of the book to hand, but it is made clear that the transport ships that brought the fighters survive. Ender notes after [spoiler] explodes that those ships are still floating "at the very periphery of the simulator". He even makes a point of saying that the viewpoint of the battle space changes, because all the nearby ships got blown away.

Update: Finally found the quote...

Within three seconds the entire planet burst apart, becoming a sphere of bright dust, hurtling outward. Ender's fighters were among the first to go: their perspective suddenly vanished, and now the simulator could only display the perspective of the starships waiting beyond the edges of the battle. It was as close as Ender wanted to be. The sphere of the exploding planet grew outward faster than the enemy ships could avoid it. And it carried with it the Little Doctor, not so little anymore, the field taking apart every ship in its path, erupting each one into a dot of light before it went on.

Only at the very periphery of the simulator did the M.D. field weaken. Two or three enemy ships were drifting away. Ender's own starships did not explode. But where the vast enemy fleet had been, and the planet they protected, there was nothing meaningful.

But ... TL;DR -- Yep. Transports survive

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The International Fleet was dispatched long before the book starts, and was sent to many different planets

Immediately after the second invasion, the IF began sending out ships, timed so that they would all reach their destination at the same time. It is this fast approaching time window that Mazer was referring to.

Ender tried to grasp the amounts of time that had gone by. "And the ships have been traveling for seventy years—"

"Some of them. And some for thirty years, and some for twenty. We make better ships now. We're learning how to play with space a little better. But every starship that is not still under construction is on its way to a bugger world or outpost. Every starship, with cruisers and fighters tucked into its belly, is out there approaching the buggers. Decelerating. Because they're almost there. The first ships we sent to the most distant objectives, the more recent ships to the closer ones. Our timing was pretty good. They'll all be arriving in combat range within a few months of each other. Unfortunately, our most primitive, outdated equipment will be attacking their homeworld. Still, they're armed well enough — we have some weapons the buggers never saw before."
Ender's Game - Chapter 13

The vast majority of these ships survived. Even in the last battle where all of the fighters had been killed, the starships still survived.

Only at the very periphery of the simulator did the M.D. field weaken. Two or three enemy ships were drifting away. Ender's own starships did not explode. But where the vast enemy fleet had been, and the planet they protected, there was nothing meaningful. A lump of dirt was growing as gravity drew much of the debris downward again. It was glowing hot and spinning visibly; it was also much smaller than the world had been before. Much of its mass was now a cloud still flowing outward.
Ender's Game - Chapter 14

Their fate wasn't discussed in Ender's Game itself, but later works show that they went on to colonize the bugger homeworlds, and did not return to earth.

This was first shown in "The Goldbug" comic, but has since also appeared in Ender in Exile, Ender's Game Alive, and the two short stories, "The Goldbug", and "Governor Wiggin".

And then the order came, the final mad assault on the planet's surface, the detonation of the M.D. device, the disintegration of the entire world.


They celebrated. They drank. They wept for joy. They remembered all the people back on Earth that once upon a time they knew and loved, and wept again in grief. For by now they were all forty years older, and before this fleet could return eighty years would have gone by.

But they weren't going home. They had never planned to. Knowing what relativistic space travel would do to them, that they could never return to the lives they had once had, they set out on this expedition knowing that if they won, it would cease to be a military fleet and become, all at once, a colony.

They had expected to have to fight for control of the planet's surface, and it was to be a mission of extermination, like the one the Formics had launched against Earth. But after that last battle, it wasn't necessary. The queens of all the conquered worlds had been gathered together on the last planet. All their eggs in one basket, so to speak. When they died, the workers and larvae on all the worlds died with them. Not immediately, but within hours or days.
"The Goldbug" (short story)

This led to some minor inconsistencies with the last chapter of Ender's Game

When I wrote the novel Ender's Game back in 1984, my focus in the last chapter, chapter 15, was entirely on setting up Speaker for the Dead. I had no notion of any sequel between those two books. So I was rather careless and cavalier with my account of Ender's time on the first colony. I was so careless I completely forgot that on all but the last formic planet, there would have been human pilots and crew left alive. Where would they go? Of course they would begin colonizing the formic worlds. And those who sent them would have at least allowed for that possibility, sending people trained to do whatever jobs they anticipated would be necessary. Ender in Exile - Afterword

Card says that he'll eventually change the passage in the future editions of the novel.

Why should I be stuck now with decisions carelessly made twenty-four years ago? What I've written since is right; those contradictory but unimportant details in the original novel are wrong.

Therefore I have rewritten chapter 15 of Ender's Game, and at some future date there will be an edition of the novel that includes the revised chapter.
Ender in Exile - Afterword

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    Do we already have the revised chapter? Without dates on that last quote it is hard to tell. I know my copy has a revised ending, but I think that is an extra chapter or 3, to link up with the sequel – Lyndon White Nov 2 '17 at 0:44
  • @Lyndon - We don't. Card had talked a lot over the years about his planned "reconciled edition" of Ender's Game, but has never released it. Aaron Johnston said in a recent interview that it wouldn't be published until the Formic War prequels were done. And I wouldn't call the 1985 edition a "revised ending with an extra chapter or 3". It was a new novel that borrowed from a pre-existing short story. About 85% of it was new. – ibid Nov 2 '17 at 0:52
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    @Lyndon - The quote was from 2008. There was even a part of the quote I omitted (to avoid confusion) where Card said he had already posted the new chapter online. (He never did.) – ibid Nov 2 '17 at 0:55


And, as the following books (Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, etc) point out, the crews from those surviving ships help populate the formic worlds when the formics all died off such as the colony, Shakespeare, which Ender ends up being the governor for a while.

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    Those weren't necessarily the crews from the final attack against the homeworld, though. There were multiple task forces; recall that the battles farther from Earth used more primitive ships because they needed to be launched earlier to get there at the same time as the rest. – Ray Nov 1 '17 at 16:19
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    @Ray - Agreed. There were multiple battle fronts with surviving crews. – iMerchant Nov 1 '17 at 17:31

As well as the fact that not all of the ships in the final battle were destroyed:

Only at the very periphery of the simulator did the M.D. field weaken. Two or three enemy ships were drifting away. Ender's own starships did not explode. But where the vast enemy fleet had been, and the planet they protected, there was nothing meaningful.

These ships at the Bugger's homeworld were not the same ships used in the other battles leading up to the final one. I will try and find the relevant quotes later, but basically, there's a point made that the ships Ender has access to as the invasion progresses are older, less well-armed, and have fewer fighters - since the ships furthest away would have been sent before the ones fighting battles nearer to Earth.

A lot of the earlier battles saw survivors - who were then used to populate the worlds they'd conquered.

As to whether any of the individuals in the fleet came home after the Third Invasion: I don't think Card has mentioned it - one thing is true, it took years of non-relativistic time to get from Earth to the colony where Ender settled (Ender is much younger than Peter when they talk over the ansible) - by the time any of the invasion crews returned, their families and friends would be dust.

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  • Minor nitpick on wording: "..., it took years of non-relativistic time..." – Corey Nov 2 '17 at 4:55
  • "dammit, @corey, I'm a software engineer, not an astrophysicist" ;) thanks – HorusKol Nov 2 '17 at 5:22

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