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. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
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.
Nebula and Hugo Award winner. Massive amount of praise from the science fiction community. And now, a feature film almost thirty years after the novel itself was published. Of course, I had to finally find out the hype that’s been around for years and years. Somehow this book never came across my path over the course of my childhood, and I do regret that now. For the kind of child I was, the intelligent kid in the room that was picked on relentlessly, this book would have had magical effects on my brain. Regardless, I still felt like I appreciated the book for what it is, even if there are a few things that do bug me about it.
The intelligent boy, a social outcast, becomes the military leader the world needs in order to fight a force that has threatened humanity for a century. In a sense, a fulfilment of fantasies that many of us have had at some point or another. “You’ll see, one day I’ll be more powerful than all the popular kids.” And as far as I know, some people discount the novel for this very reason. But it is so much more than that. The politics and methods of war. Leadership. Prophetic visions of how video games will become (I give Card a lot of credit here for this particular point in general). It delved much deeper into such themes than I ever expected. Surprised me, even. And best of all, there was no forced romance throughout the novel. Well, not maybe the best, but a welcomed relief. We instead get the love between Valentine and Ender, the unconditional love of family. Bonds that can never be cut.
We also see the bonds between soldiers and their commander. Almost familial, with great respect, but not quite the friendship Ender so desires throughout the novel. Isolated they want him and truly isolated he is, even with the others around him. We get a lot of what is going on with Ender psychologically due to this and other reasons, especially through the Fairyland game.
And of games we get many. The Battle Room is the most exciting and action-packed venue of the story. Zero-gravity laser tag that freezes the suits you wear, with the objective to get your players to the enemy’s gate. Game after game we get, with different armies, different tactics, and eventually different rules. The concept was amazing and fun to follow, though sometimes a bit difficult to reorient to what it would be like in such an environment. Though, Ender and Bean do help us with this. Always remember that the enemy’s gate is down.
My absolute favorite part of the novel has to be the big twist at the end, which I unfortunately feel like I shouldn’t discuss here. Let’s just say that I will never think of playing video games in the same way again.
The one thing in the novel that unfortunately suffers from age is the Locke and Demosthenes scenario. While highly important to the novel, the concept of using what is essentially blogging to try and gain political power does not hold up in today’s world. Where most of the book does not suffer from longevity issues, this is where a reader today would have trouble suspending disbelief.
Overall, the strangest aspect of this book to me was attempting to reconcile it as a bildungsroman (coming-of-age story) when the characters were practically like small adults. Ender Wiggin is expected to save the human race as a rather young child, and as so I expected a great amount of character growth to occur. In many aspects, though, he remained rather static. He always is afraid of becoming a ruthless sociopath like his brother Peter. This point is again and again pushed at us through multiple different incidents that occur throughout the novel. Hurting others makes him feel like he will become as his brother is. Though I do feel that Ender does reconcile this, at least somewhat, in his mind with the events at the end of the novel. I figure I’ll have to read Speaker for the Dead to see if this pans out?
One thing is for certain. I will at least pick up a copy of Speaker for the Dead at some point. Ender’s Game was one hell of a ride.