09 January 2014

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

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.

If I had read Ender's Game when I was eleven, or even as old as fifteen, I would not have come out of the story the same way I have now.  The movie brought me to this story, but the book captured me in the way only an excellent novel can.  While rife with disturbing elements, it is the effectiveness of the setup and the humanity of the story that makes it such a good book.  And while books that try to force uncomfortable things in the faces of the audience are a turnoff, Orson Scott Card expertly wraps the disconcerting themes around Ender, a character, while so high above everyone else, including the audience, is so desperately human like the rest of us.  What Orson Scott Card does in Ender's Game is something that is missing in today's novels.

What struck me first about Ender's Game was how well Orson Scott Card understood human behavior.  The way he implemented that into the story made it come alive, and I found it fascinating.  As a writer myself, I struggle with trying to bring my characters to life by realizing that they have their own opinions.  It was easy for me to understand the energy of a character right away, given how well Card presented them.

I've heard people say that it's hard to connect to Ender because he's so young.  Also, he's so young and smart.  I see where that comes from, because I had a difficult time believing I was reading about a six-year-old, too.  I pictured a twelve-year-old in my head, so when I was reminded how young he was, it jarred me out of the story.  Yet I feel that it's fitting to have him so young.  Some say this makes him had to connect to.  To me, it isn't about connecting with the main character, but understanding them.  I connected to Ender on a single aspect and that was struggling to successfully integrate into a group of your peers.  I still greatly enjoyed Ender's character, despite our differences, because I don't have to be his soulmate in order to get something out of his character and his story.

The plot was straightforward, up to a certain point, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment.  To me, the story was about Ender and his internal struggles.  Also, Card brings up moral issues, like colonization, the purpose and right to wage war, and the exploitation of basic human rights.  Some big stuff.  So when I said that Card is doing things that are missed in today's novels, that's what I meant.  The Big Stuff.  Card goes for the jugular and doesn't let go for anything.  That killer instinct for storytelling is what has today's YA novels falling harmlessly into the mainstream.

Ender's Game packed a punch when it came out of the gate back in the late 70's, but it hasn't lost any of its potency.  It was a well-crafted and excellent story that is definitely worth a gander, even if you aren't into sci-fi.  (And if you aren't, this may be just the thing to pique your interest.)  Now that I have read it, I definitely want to continue the story and I most definitely want a copy on my shelves.

"Remember, the enemy's gate is down."
"An enemy, Ender Wiggin," whispered the old man. "I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had who was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on I am your teacher."
Book Info
  • pages - paperback, 324
  • published - 1985
  • publisher - Tor 
  • genre - science fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 5/5
  • series - Ender 
    • Ender's Game
    • Speaker for the Dead
    • Xenocide
    • Children of the Mind