Book Review: ‘Ender’s Game’ by Orson Scott Card

Posted: 5 August 2015 in Book reviews
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Synopsis

In a futuristic world, mankind’s last hope from destruction by an alien race (buggers) is found in a brilliant child, Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin. Ender is a Third, the third child in a time where couples can only have two children unless given special permission. He is shunned and hated, which doesn’t help him being smarter than almost everyone else. When his monitor is taken away to see how he would react, he beats down his constant tormentor Stilson and is then invited by Colonel Graff to attend Battle School in the Belt (space).

Life at Battle School proved to be significantly more challenging than Ender could have ever imagined. Not only were his lessons unlike anything he’d experienced before, he was also purposely set apart from his peers. Despite the stumbling blocks placed before him, he perseveres and excels rapidly. He is soon commanding his own army, much to the ire of his prior commander Bonzo (who he unknowingly kills). Little by little, the superiors throw everything they can at Ender. Games are conducted, sometimes twice a day, at random hours, or back-to-back, and he always wins. But it wears him down to the point of exhaustion.

On Earth, Ender’s siblings, Peter and Valentine, are secretly making waves of their own under the guise as political orators Locke and Demosthenes respectively. Their political essays are taken quite seriously and Valentine cannot help but feel guilty when even their father begins referencing their works not knowing they are from his own children. Graff knows the truth and uses it as leverage to get Valentine to help persuade Ender to continue training, much to her disgust.

Ender is then promoted to the Command School on Eros, a captured bugger base on an asteroid. There he learns that war hero Mazer Rackham is actually not dead. He trains Ender through a series of gruelling new games. As the games progress, his old army joins him on Eros and together they continue their winning streak. All of this training finally leads to the all important final test,  The test that will end it all.

My Thoughts

I have known about this book ever since I was in junior high. Everyone told me how great it was and blah, blah, blah, but I never ended up reading it (not being much into sci-fi and fantasy at the time). But now that there’s a movie about it, it seemed like a good time to read it. Finally.

Of course the movie didn’t do the book justice at all, naturally. I was really fascinated by how the fate of mankind could really be left in the hands of a brilliant pre-pubescent. The adults were seriously major assholes. The fact that they would do the things they did to these kids, especially Ender, is abysmal. They had no childhood, no time to enjoy their youth. They were prepared for battle and that was all that mattered. The movie portrays them as young, but goodness in the book they are even younger than that (like GoT). What a disturbing future. Well done.

I loved the book though. It was engaging, intriguing, and conflicting. It always amazes me to read such fascinating books that have been around for so long. For some odd reason, I’m constantly surprised that such imaginative literature was being written 30+ years ago. It may simply be because I am still young, but in this case I think it is more because I am not learned enough in sci-fi literature of the past century. Just means I have a lot more reading to do.

While there are many characters in the book, there are only two you really get to connect with: Ender and Valentine. The rest you only experience in passing, notably Peter and Graff. One thing I noticed with the characters is that they are all fairly extreme, whether they are aggressive, passive, and even passive-aggressive. Peter and  Bonzo are both extremely aggressive, the majority of Ender’s friends are fairly passive, Valentine and Graff are largely passive-aggressive, but Ender is the only one who falls in none of these. He can be aggressive when necessary, but is largely passive. There is also a ton of manipulation behind the scenes. Graff manipulates Ender, Peter manipulates everyone, and Valentine reluctantly manipulates Ender (for Graff). The characters all display the ugly human characteristics with momentary bursts of the good ones. But again, Ender seems to embody all of them, but in a mostly calculated way that is neither good or bad.

The book is very well written. You get a real sense of the differences in character voices. I personally like the little blurbs at the beginning of each chapter giving the view point of the superiors. It gives the reader a nice rounded view of everything going on. The book is thankfully not difficult to read. It is written simple enough to understand, but smart enough to paint a beautiful and complex picture. It’s easy to see why this book has remained so popular.

I definitely give this book two thumbs up. My only worry is that I’ve been told by many sources that this is the best book in the series. The only way to find out is to keep on reading. But you should read this if you enjoy sci-fi. I highly recommend it. Enjoy 😉

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