‘Ender’s Game’ Review

by on May 7, 2013

in book reviews, Entertainment

This is a book review (co-written with Tim Miller) of Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.   And more than likely could contain what some might consider to be spoilers for the upcoming Ender’s Game movie. (Originally published April 5th 2012)

'Ender's Game' review

The 1985 science fiction novel, Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, takes place in a time when humanity has encountered an enemy other than himself, a  nonhuman enemy from outer space. When we first encountered the enemy, called buggers because of their resemblance to insects, we almost lost our species to their advanced or different fighting methods.  One brave soul managed to wipe out their second advance and for now, humanity has won a reprieve.

But, we also know this lull in our attempted extermination won’t last forever and humanity must prepare for that next encounter.  The plan is not to wait for the buggers but to send armed forces to attack the bugger’s home planet led by the best and brightest military-minded humans.

{“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.”}

Enter, one Andrew “Ender” Wiggin. In Ender, the military has found their man. Through rigorous methods of public testing the population at large, they find their candidates and whisk them away to be trained in Battle School.  The catch is that Ender is the ripe old age of six-years-old and he’s small for his age.  However, because he’s incredibly intelligent, he has an instinct for survival that allows him to take whatever action is necessary to survive in spite of his deep feelings of compassion.

Ender’s Game is about a society pushed to the limits in how to protect itself and it is doing anything necessary to make sure humanity survives.  And, that includes picking the best and the brightest amongst our youth.

{“This futuristic tale involves aliens, political discourse on the Internet, sophisticated computer games, and an orbiting battle station. Yet the reason it rings true for so many is that it is first and foremost a tale of humanity; a tale of a boy struggling to grow up into someone he can respect while living in an environment stripped of choices. Ender’s Game is a must-read book for science fiction lovers, and a key conversion read for their friends who “don’t read science fiction.”}

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Ender’s Game is a journey by one young boy, who is taken from his family to be trained to lead men into battle against an enemy force that is superior to our own.  The military comes up with plans on how to train and create better military commanders to be able to out think and out strategize the enemy.

But, Ender’s trials and tribulations are many and during the course of the story, through each level of advancement in his training, he’s brought closer and closer to his own personal limitations with the violent side of the human species.  But Ender IS the one.  The one to save humanity and he is trained and trained hard, from the very moment he steps on the space transport to go to Battle School.  And as it is very well known, training is designed to push one to their limits, all of them, and create a better man.  Or in this case, military strategist and commander.

Through the entire book, we’re presented with the theme of how the adults are using and pushing Ender (and the other children in Battle School) for their own end game, all the while, we experience Ender’s situation as he is pushed.  He’s pushed by his own classmates, the Battle School teachers, the system and even the AI based training video game the cadets’ play with, even if the adults have no clue how the computer simulation actually works.  We follow in a parallel fashion, the military’s hopes that depend on Ender surviving their training and tests while we watch many of Ender’s victories, along with his self-perceived losses.

There’s no rest for the weary, but then again, this is training for life-and-death situations where there are no breaks, there are no time-outs and there is no pity, just the enemy.  An enemy that promises to have better tech, more numbers and presumably, to be on their way back to Earth to finish what they started.

'Ender's Game' Battle Room

To prepare for this battle, a battle room, and later on, simulators for commanding officers, were designed and created.  It’s in the battle room that Ender learns space tactics.  But, more importantly, since he does think outside the box, he sees flaws in various long-lived tactical situations that he can take advantage of while using the system against itself.  He’s a sharp little human, hence why he’s in Battle School.

But, of course, Ender is also choked up with compassion and it seems it’s always in the back of his mind if he can do this or not.  What will be the price if he does manage to pull off what he needs to?

You would find out if you pick up this incredibly exciting story about the future of humanity and one child’s part in it.

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Although published in 1985, Ender’s Game is still an incredible read on many levels today and I think most would find it incredibly engaging.  The story involves different aspects of a society facing certain destruction while others plot and plan for plan B, the story is filled with tension and excitement.  Despite the political posturing that takes place throughout the story, mostly in the background, the story of the journey that Ender has to endure is compelling.

Ender’s Game on Amazon

His training, though seeming harsh, if you step back and analyze it, makes perfect sense, if one to prepare a person for an impossible battle.  So, to do Ender’s reactions to certain situations, where you don’t expect what he does and how he manages to react to some situations.  Yet his actions are necessary for his own survival.

Ender’s Game won the 1985 Nebula Award and 1986 Hugo Award for best novel.  And the author’s methodology of training the young cadets in the story has given rise to the U.S. Marine Corps calling Ender’s Game recommended reading.

Ender’s Game is part of a series that involves eleven novels, twelve short stories and forty-five comic book issues.  This book launched an entire world of stories, including two new books headed to market, including one prequel.  You would think that by now, there would have been a movie made!

'Ender's Game' set image - character chair

Ender’s Game is being made into a movie, to be released in March 15, Nov 1, 2013, starring Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield as Ender Wiggins and Abigail Breslin as Valentine.  And it’s about time!


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter Cawdron May 13, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Science fiction is generally forward-thinking and progressive, but some of these stories are a throwback to the Victorian era in terms of how they treat children… thankfully, attitudes have changed and continue to change

Peter Cawdron May 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hah… and you’re right, that’s the exact rationale… does the end (destroying the buggers) justify the means (creating a monster)? The author, OSCard touches on this moral dilemma a little in retrospect in the sequel Xenocide but doesn’t really develop it as much as he could. Oh, I’ll still go and see the movie, but I think it’s quite telling that in the movie they’ve scaled the ages up considerably.

It’s funny, we’ll cheer for movies in which 8yr old kids are forced into a life-and-death pod race to make money for adults, but if that ever happened in real life, Qui Gon would be doing time in the state penitentiary… ha ha ha

Bruce Simmons May 13, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Wow Peter…
You’ve totally deflated my enthusiasm for the book/movie.

True, I recognized what you’ve said.
But I was looking to it as how they were toughening up Ender. Much like my time spent in jr. high and high school. (without the adults knowing what was going on.)

And the idea of what they were doing to the youth of the programs was riveting because it was so horrible. So shocking. Much like how The Hunger Games shocked me that they were tossing teens and pre-teens into a horrible, reality-TV death match.

Peter Cawdron May 13, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ender’s Game, especially the ending, as it got me hook, line and sinker. I was, however, repulsed by the brutality among young children and especially the way adults were shown to condone and encourage violence between kids. Yes, I know, it was all for the good of mankind so we could defeat the buggers, but, honestly, the dark side of Ender’s Game is not a message for my kids.

Think about Colonel Graf…
* Tells Ender no adult will ever come to his aid (chillingly similar to the ploy invoked by paedophiles to control their victims in a state of learned-helplessness)
* Isolates Ender by removing him the protection of his parents
* Isolates Ender from friendships with his peers
* Deliberately exposes Ender to a life-threatening violent situation and doesn’t intervene
* Graf is fully acquitted of his treatment of the kids and is promoted, which is unfortunately all too true of child abusers in our world (like Roman Catholic priests)

The story would have worked just as well without any of these elements. Hunger Games did the same thing with little in the way of plot necessity… Stories like these seem gratuitously wide-of-the-mark with little or no reason. Makes me wonder about the mindset of the authors.

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