Title: Ender’s Game
Author: Orson Scott Card
Genre: Fantasy/ Science Fiction
Publication date: 1994
In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine.
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.
I ought to start by saying that I am not that much of a Sci-Fi reader, or at least I’ve never given the genre a proper chance. Apart from Star Wars, Stargate and the Startrek movies I’ve never watched/read an interesting sci-fi story. Until now. Ender’s Game, the first book of the quartet, by Orson Scott Card is indeed a marvelous adventure full of action, beautiful prose and deep, complicated themes about human nature that stay with you long after you’ve put the book down.
The story revolves around three exceptional siblings – Ender, Valentine and Peter. In a world where every family has a quota of two children Ender is an Third, an oddity, allowed by the government due to the extraordinary intellect and abilities of his older siblings. But while Peter is deemed too vicious and Valentine – too emphatic, Ender possess all the quality the Military seeks for the commander of Earth’s space armada.
Ender is sent to Battle School where he needs to learn to battle in zero gravity, learn tactics and become a leader. The sad thing is that he is only six years old when he goes there and is constantly belittled, laughed at and shunned by the others. Still, he perseveres, holding onto the thought of the buggers, the alien race bound to destroy the human race, and the need to prove himself.
I don’t know how I always end up reading books where the main characters are so much younger than me but Ender is an exception to every rule. While it does show he is but a child in rare occasions his intellect and analogical (and sometimes savage) thinking intimidated me a great deal. I love smart characters, not just smart-ass, sarcastic ones, and how can I not fall in love with a genius?
I particularly enjoyed his time in Battle School. It was just like a video game. Action after action while the difficulty increases with each level. And while Ender did show what he is made of at every round, it looked so natural, so deserving that I was simply blown away. If you tell me than an eight-year-old is capable if such advanced analytical thinking, making complicated decisions in a split second and literally capable of killing another person I would have told you to check your head. Or that the kid was a psycho. But with Ender – it is realistic and it is well-devised and laid out that you don’t even stop to think about it. It made me feel a bit inadequate but at the same time I was so entertained and amazed by Ender that I read page after page until I found myself staring at the back cover.
I assume that many of you have watched the movie from 2013 – it was an amazing one and believe it or not it was so close to the book that I was speechless. The only thing that was not developed in the movie is the role Valentine and Peter play after Ender is sent to Battle School and that is to become incognito spokesmen in net government channels in order to gain enough influence and followers that when the inevitable war on Earth starts they would be able to govern it and shape the new world into a better one. Yeah, we are talking about 10 and 12-year-old 😀 When I was twelve I was devastated I didn’t get my letter to Hogwarts.
But in any case the main focus is Ender and his journey to becoming, or rather being shaped into the Fleet Commander the Earth needs against the buggers, an alien race who had attacked Earth many decades ago. I personally loved the idea of the conflict, the fear and violence which drives all humans in everything they do. This theme, as well as the theme of the human nature in the face of their own extinction is among the most discussed in Card’s story. There are so many memorable phrases not just because they sound nice but because they are timeless and you can use them for humans beings at any point.
“The power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and one will ever save you.”
With the risk of spoilers I’ll allow myself the small liberty of vaguely mentioning the end. If you are reading the book after watching the movie then you won’t be able to experience the full sense of having your teeth punched out with surprise. I remember my reaction when I watched the movie – I was staring with my mouth agape for good two minutes – and even now when I was reading the book I started getting anxious as the moment of truth neared 🙂 I love surprises and Orson Scott Card did his job splendidly. This is by far one of my favorite book endings of all time. I am sure that you’ll also enjoy it.
I would give Ender’s Game a well-deserved 5-star rating. I am very hopeful for the next books and I am sure that if he keeps up on the same course I surely won’t be disappointed.
What about you? Have you read the book? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on Ender’s Game?