“Remember, the enemy’s gate is down.”
Author: Orson Scott Card
Category: Science Fiction, Classics
Pages: 226 (Hardback)
Publication Date: 1985
Check out this week’s podcast discussion where we talk about Ender’s Game!
Ender’s Game is the story of Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, a six-year-old who is selected for the inter-planetary Battle School where children are trained to become commanders for the International Fleet. Colonel Graff suspects he is a strategic genius and so he subjects him to an increasingly grueling training program in which he has to lead other kids into mock battles.
It soon becomes apparent why: he believes that Ender may be the only person capable of beating the buggers, a technologically advanced alien race that has invaded Earth twice before. So he pushs Ender to the very limit of his endurance in many ways. Not only does Colonel Graff pretty much totally upend the curriculum of the Battle School at times just to be able to push Ender further, but from the outset he also subtly sets Ender apart from his fellow Battle School students in such a way that he is guaranteed to have not friends and so that he learns to live in isolation, never expecting to be helped by anyone.
While overall characterization is weak at times, there can be no doubt that Ender is a great protagonist. It’s interesting to watch him outwit his enemies, win the respect and support of those who matter, and prove himself for the big task ahead of him.
Ender’s Game is more than an exciting tale about a child prodigy overcoming his struggles. There is the moral question regarding the ethics of war, how far should those in command go to guarantee victory (and in this case, the survival of the human race) and with using children in a war. Ender is 6 years old when the book begins and he is put through some pretty harsh situations.
There is a note we should make here. Orson Scott Card is known for being misogynistic and homophobic. We do not condone this authors opinion and merely enjoy this book for the book itself. That being said there are parts in this book where his opinion shows through. There are very few female characters and the ones that are, can be very two dimensional. The reason given for so few girls making it into Battle School is that “they have too many years of evolution working against them.”
Yeah, okay when you were talking about 50 pound swords plus shields and such, maybe you had a point. But in a futuristic battle where it nearly every outcome will be decided by intelligence, that is a waaaaay misogynistic stance to take.
Ender’s Game is a staple in the sci-fi community. There are positives and there are negatives, but there is no doubting that this book and series will be around for a very long time.
I did not know of the hate for this author the first time I read this book years ago. It is disgusting how he treats other people and it hurts how a story I really enjoy is tainted by his opinion.
That aside I really enjoy this book. I love the struggle of Ender trying to find the balance between violence and compassion as a leader. It is up there as, if not of all books, one of my favorite sci-fi books for me.
On the note of Card’s homophobia, I confess myself somewhat surprised.
Ender’s relationship with the first person he was even kind of friends with at Battle School, Alai, had some homosexual subtext I thought. The boys are 6 when they meet and 12 when the story wraps up so too young to definitively say that they are gay but there was a sort of intimacy between them that Ender doesn’t have with any other character.
It has been about 8 years since I originally read this book and I think I love it even more now.
Back when I first read it, I think the thing that I liked the most about it was watching a genius commander in action. I immensely enjoy intelligent characters being put in impossible situations and watching them think their way out of it.
Reading it for probably the third time total but the first time in several years, there was so much more that stood out to me. For some reason, the themes that I had never gotten before with sending children to war, the mental effects of one person being relied upon to save everyone and the cost to that person of achieving it, what it means to understand truly understand someone and how to understand the people that follow you enough to effectively lead them. This book just seemed a whole lot deeper this time around. I will need to go back and re-read the rest of the series sometime to see what else I missed!