Ender's Game

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endersgame..jpg

Orson Scott Card

GENRES:
Science Fiction, Space opera, War

SUMMARY:
Winning both the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, Ender's Game follows the lives of three remarkable children. Designated geniuses at birth, the Wiggins children are tested on by one to determine if they are suitable to beocome the chosen commander of the fleet that will destroy the Buggers, insect-like aliens that had almost destroyed mankind years before. Only the youngest child, Ender, passes these tests. At the age of six, he is brought to the Battle School, a space station where children learn to become soldiers.

Ender is singled out and isolated from potential friends and allies. A genius among geniuses, he quickly advances within the ranks of the Battle School despite (or because of) the hurdles thrown in his path. However, even with his abilities and growing alliances and friendships, Ender alienates many fellow students with his gifted tactical and command abilities.

The center of the Battle School, the battle room, is where the children learn and refine the fighting techniques that make them astounding killers and tacticians. Ender instantly adapts to the null gravity room and develops extraordinary skills that enable him to begin command school earlier than any other child.

Meanwhile, Ender's siblings, the beloved Valentine and the cruel Peter, are manipulating the media back home to become political masterminds in the global power structure. Despite Valentine's love for her younger brother, she has little contact with him during these years. It is during Ender's final months at command school that the true secret of the games is revealed and the future of two races and one boy's old soul will be determined.

RESPONSE:
Ender's Game is one of the most simple yet eloquent science fiction novels I had ever read. On the surface the story is extremely entertaining and written in simple, direct prose. The Battle School holds some great fights and strategies which are quick, action-packed and original despite repeated descriptions. Ender is a completely three-dimensional character, and his problems in school can parallel any child regardless of their intellect. He is a genius and a strong fighter, and yet he still possesses a combined sense of open childlike innocence with closed adolescence bitterness (justifiably so). The conspiracy of Ender's teachers to manipulate him is a wonderful foil to the political subterfuge of Valentine and Peter. So we've got engaging characters, good fights, and conspiracies. When the author throws in a warring alien civilization and some rousing zero-gravity games, Ender's Game seems to turn into a wonderfully cliche sci-fi story with a blinding power to entertain and do little else.

But this novel is more than pure escapism; Orson Scott Card also manages to reveal true gems of human nature. The characters challenge our ideas of children as innocent and ignorant; and, oddly enough, this is one of the most criticized aspects of the novel. I can't count how many times I forgot the hero of the novel was only six. I must admit I questioned the author's portayal of childrens' natures, but then I thought about how Ender was raised. The Wiggins childrens' minds were adult, but their spirits and values were still childlike. Once this is acknowledged, Orson Scott Card's characterization seems true. Ender's internal battle with his conscience transcends childhood and echoes in every person confronted with moral issues.

The themes of lost childhood and innocence in an environment of regimented, ruthless battle training explores the issue of exactly how much we're controlled by our genes and our environment. And of course the answer that it's likely both.

The twist at the end of the novel was brilliantly abrupt, and the final explanation of the aliens' legacy gives Ender's Game a bittersweet finale about survival, compassion, and the ideal blend of the two.

POINT BLANK:
Read it. It's a classic for good reasons. Simple truth in an entertaining easy-to-read story... and it's sci-fi. What more can we ask for?