Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
With the movie fast approaching the cinemas, Ender’s Game got a new paperback issue. I found one of them at my favorite bookstore and because I’d heard so much praise for it, buying the book was a no-brainer. And it was totally worth it.
The book dominated me for one and a half days after I bought it. It stands up to the hype and surpasses it even. It’s a very great read and I’m glad I bought it.
The story is about Ender. He’s a very special 6-year old that is needed for the survival of the human race. After two invasions by the buggers, the earth needs a new leader to fight the next war and so promising children are monitored and send to Battle School if they are deemed worthy. Ender is portrayed as the last chance for earth and is subjected to inhuman treatment to become a leader to dwarf everyone before him and lead the human race to victory over the buggers.
His education is mostly done through games that teach him a wide range of skills. Ender has to fight impossible odds and overcome them on his way to become a master strategist and a human that can stand up to the buggers. And he can never rely on adults.
This is not the common coming of age or teaching/learning situation you have in many other books featuring children or young teens. Ender is not your average child, he’s not even your average genius, he’s simply the best humanity has. And the reader can believe that.
Many stories featuring geniuses can’t do it convincingly. Yes, they are intelligent and whatever and learn things very fast, but they often make stupid decisions or behave irrational. I’m never really convinced by how geniuses are often depicted. But Ender and his siblings are the exception. I really like the letter that’s in the introduction and I can wholeheartedly agree with it.
Not only do we have a convincing genius, we have a teaching situation where everything possible is stacked against the protagonist and you believe it when he overcomes the odds. He has to fight with his command against twice the enemy, or a battlefield without cover for his soldiers, or at a great tactical disadvantage, but he always gets through.
While the story is driven by Ender, other characters are done very well even though they only have a limited appearance. Notably for me was Graff, the one that sets all his hopes on Ender and pushes him as hard as possible. Though we mostly learn about him from conversations he has about Ender, that is enough for Orson Scott Card to show us a great character that’s deeper than many others I’ve read about.
Ender isn’t just a genius that does everything right and that’s the best thing about him. He’s driven and unstable at times, brought down by what everyone expects him to do and his fear to become a monster. Ender is scared of himself and what he can do when he’s driven in a corner. He’s scared of becoming like his brother and that’s a very real and scary thought. While the reader is always on Ender’s side, you are bound to wonder what Ender is capable of, both good and bad.
The main downside to the book was how predictable especially the ending was. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great ending, but it wasn’t all that surprising. While I say that, it didn’t bother me. It took none of the enjoyment out of the book and that’s the most important thing.
I’m looking forward to watching the movie, from what I’ve seen in trailers they have some nice special effects, but I’m not sure how well they can capture the spirit of the story. Most adaptations of books I have watched weren’t nearly as good as the book, but as long as they can make me enjoy the movie, I’m happy with it.
If you haven’t read Ender’s Game yet, I can only encourage you to get a copy, because it will be worth it! It is an engaging tale about a young boy and what he has to go through to save the world. It brings up uncomfortable questions about what you’re allowed to do to other humans when the human race faces extinction and questions about the nature of humans and what happens when they realize that they have power. Not to mention the strain power and expectations can have on a child that is seen as the last hope for he human race.