My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first thing you need to know about Orson Scott Card is that you cannot understand the mind of Orson Scott Card. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. You’ll know what I mean if you read the book.
Ender’s Game is about Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. Earth has been through two world wars with an alien race called the “buggers”. They are now preparing for the war to end all wars. Take out the “buggers” before they take care of Earth. In order to prepare for this final battle, an international fleet (I.F.) battle school has been created to train young children to command their fleet of space war ships. These children must have super intelligence, with some aggressive tendencies. The children are chosen by making them wear monitors on the back of their necks in order to determine if they exhibit the leadership qualities needed for battle school. Ender has had a monitor since he was three. At six, his monitor is removed, and he’s recruited for battle school by Colonel Graff. We find out right from the beginning of the book that the I.F. has singled out Ender as their last chance to produce the leader they need to win the war. At this point, Ender is only six years old. He’s whisked off to battle school in outer space, leaving behind his beloved sister Valentine and his jealous, cruel, older brother, Peter.
Most of the book is Ender’s training and battle school. He starts out, like all new kids, as a “launchie”. He has to deal with jealousy, bullying, loneliness, and isolation. The recruits spend their days in zero gravity, carrying out mock battles with laser guns that operate by freezing their opponent so that they can’t move. As soon as Ender begins to form any kind of friendship, the I.F. moves him into a new army where he has to prove himself all over again. He does manage to maintain a few friendships, which makes for some interesting characters in the book. This period of training takes him up to 9 ½ years old.
There is a philosophical side story that goes on during Ender’s training. It occurs on Earth between Ender’s sister Valentine, and his brother Peter. Peter is power-hungry and wants to influence what he detects as a shift in the world order as the final war with the buggers draws closer. Peter talks Valentine into pretending to be adults on the net so that they can influence political opinions. They end up with the pseudonyms, Demosthenes and Locke, and become very influential in the shaping of public opinion.
I can’t really say more without spoilers.
My one pet peeve (and I must point it out) is when the dialogue of a character does not match their age. Ender talks like a sixteen year old from age six to the end of the book. I get he’s ultra-intelligent, but it still bothers me. I expect this will come across better on the big screen.
One thing I need to address is some of the negative reviews. This book was first published in 1985. So the reviewers that are pointing out the infeasibility of the plot, and the laser tag like atmosphere of the book need to appreciate what was going on in the 80s. Laser tag was just beginning to take off in the late 80s. So yeah, it was cool. Also, this book was written for young boys. So the concept of young, ultra-smart kids training to do battle with aliens in a cool zero gravity chamber with lasers… Hello! What 12-year-old boy is not going to like that? I will admit I don’t particularly love this book. But then again, I’m not 12. However, I respect its originality, and I’m very excited to see the movie version. I had a hard time picturing a lot of the maneuvers in the zero gravity chamber, so I’m expecting the visuals from the movie to give me a new appreciation for the book.
I haven’t read any of the sequels to this book, nor do I plan to. I hear the sequels are more about alien cultures rather than battles and bad guys. I prefer Card’s Pathfinder series, which is more current.