Author: Orson Scott Card
Publisher: Tor Books
Genre: Military Science Fiction
Series: Ender's Quintet and Ender's Shadow's Series Book One
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Since its release Ender’s Game has been at the forefront of must-reads in the science fiction genre. The story is about Earth’s war for survival against an alien species called buggers, but the doom of humanity is only a surface level plot.
Ender’s Game is about more than just the struggle for the human race’s survival, it is really about examining, both positively and negatively, the justification of violence, and how the military command structure manipulates minds. It's told at a quick pace, and in simple language. It’s the morals and consequences for the decisions made in Ender’s Game that are not so simple. The outcome of this story, so to speak is unique, but also very cynical, especially when you think about it contextually. Yet, surprisingly it works.
The world’s governments have largely united after two costly wars with an alien species called the buggers. The last war was nearly lost by humanity, and so the world set about breeding child geniuses that could defeat the buggers once and for all.
Ender Wiggen was one of the children that was a part of this program. He lives with his distant parents, his sociopath brother Peter, and a sister whom he loves, Valentine. His siblings were also bred to be child geniuses, but they were never selected to go to the Battle School due to flaws in their personalities. Colonel Graff, head of the Battle School selects Ender to be trained there, and he believes Ender will be Earth’s only chance at defeating humanity’s alien rivals.
Ender’s Game is told with remarkable simplicity. It almost feels like a children’s book except that the language used, the violent confrontations, and the themes are all geared towards adults.
The book’s look at violence is sure to be controversial as Ender, who is only six at the start of the story, finds himself in some personal violent confrontations that are justified by the author. These aren’t just your typical school boy fights either, Ender fights to kill. His actions are excessively violent and are supported by the author using a don’t win the “battle,” but win the “war” type of mentality.
In terms of strategy this makes sense, but in terms of humanity it doesn’t. Yet that’s the line on which Ender’s Game frequently hovers over, and the question that the author challenges readers to answer: should logic and strategy persevere at the cost of the grace and caring aspects of humanity?
The characters in Ender’s Game’s intentions, emotional reactions, and thought processes are believable. How these characters do this at their young ages requires a little more than the stretching of your imagination though. Despite this flaw, it’s possible to empathize with most of the characters in this book.
Ender’s character development is handled really well. His personal conflicts with isolation, competitive rivalries, and the fear of the alien invaders drives his character development forward. His development from being an innocent caring child to a military commander contains elements of tragedy and inspiration. As Ender gains more and more knowledge, he seems to lose parts of himself along the way.
As a way to circumvent and justify the harsh military training Ender goes through, every chapter begins in a bold text conversation with Graff and various different commanders. Graff’s conversations explain the harshness of Ender’s treatment, and why it is necessary, from the strategic point of view that these treatments be so harsh.
Valentine and Peter’s subplot is another strong point. The clash between Valentine’s empathy and Peter’s apathy while they work together drives this plot line forward, and makes this part of the story very absorbing. The conclusion of the Valentine/Peter story alongside with Ender’s story at the end of the book work really well together, creating a perverse sense of irony.
Ender’s Game says so much in so few pages. Because of this, the book has a certain intensity that is constantly pushing at its readers. This intensity works well with a possible doom of humanity plot hanging around, as it creates a sense of urgency. Ender’s Game is a great book for people looking to explore the science fiction genre for the first time, and it’s a must read classic for long time fans of the genre.