Orson Scott Card; Ender’s Game
Tor Books, 1985. 357 pgs. Wikipedia Here.
Note: my review of this book has nothing to do with Card’s personal politics or work in the non-fiction arena, it’s just about the book.
Summary: (From Amazon) Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the arts of war… The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of ‘games’… Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games… He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?
Comments: This book impacted me in a real way. The questions of morality, talent, duty, and truth make you question your own perspectives on such things. Never knowing what is real, who is to be trusted… It’s no way to live, yet every one of these characters has to struggle through in that world. They do it with intelligence and pure nerve; in the case of Ender, ignorance as bliss isn’t as good as it sounds.
I read the book in about 7 hours. I was stuck on a bus from Columbus to Washington D.C. at the time and I just couldn’t be torn away. Ender is such a complex character, his mind is intense, you feel his physical exhaustion. His fear and emotional self-flagellation are just amazing and the entire book takes place between his being 6 and 12 years old.
Also, seeing these things mirrored in his siblings (middle-child sister Val, who is the symbol of love, and oldest brother Peter, the symbol for mindless/pointless violence) brings his brilliance home even tighter. You see how easily he can slip off into either obliviousness or true evil and so his transformation over the years is that much more astounding. The moment I found out what he was truly capable of (a trick by the author, who saved this crucial information for one of the very last moments in Ender’s journey through schooling), I teared up and exclaimed out loud in shock and sadness.
Card’s writing is simple from the beginning and even as he weaves an entire political system, an inter-galactic war, child abuse, murder, fascism, psychosis, and lessons about the power of love into one quick-paced story, his writing stays simple. It’s a very subtle hand that can do this and Card is a master. My only reservation about reading the sequel (Speaker for the Dead) has been that Ender took on a philosophic tone at the end that didn’t match the character we had known through the rest of the book (at least that I’d come to know throughout the book). I’d put it on the list with my favorite books alongside Cat’s Cradle and Dune. I’d love to read Card’s parallel series, The Shadow Series, which begins with Ender’s Shadow which is Ender’s Game seen through the eyes of secondary character Bean.
I’d absolutely recommend this to anyone (science fiction fan or not – the character studies alone are worth the read). It’s a quick read but an emotional/philosophical punch in the stomach so be sure to have plenty of time once you’re finished to just process it.
Notes: own it, softcover
Genre: science fiction