25 April 2009

Ender's Game

Let me start by addressing all of my friends who share a fondness for real-time strategy games and sci-fi.  I highly recommend Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game to you.  Many people will enjoy this novel, but if I had to guess, my love of those two interests made the book especially fascinating to me.

A brief, spoiler-free plot synopsis:  Earth has been twice attacked by a race of aliens.  The military has devised a plan to engineer young people capable of the strategy, tactics, and leadership to defeat this threat.  Their last hope is a six year old boy named Ender Wiggin.  

The appeal of the story is tangible.  What young boy never had the fantasy of being humanity's only hope against an alien race?  Heck, one of the reasons I play video games today is to constantly relive this fantasy.  Ender's education takes place aboard a space station battle school complete with combat simulators and student armies.  Think Hogwart's meeting West Point... in space.  Why wouldn't I want to read this?

Card did several things right for me in his writing choices.  I loved reading Ender's experiences right at his level of thought.  To see how he perceived his situations, think about them and arrive at optimal solutions.  Making the main character such a young age made empathizing with his physical and emotional struggles easier than say a teen or young adult.  Yet the character thinks and acts at an adult level.  It's a simple read, too.  Card only elaborates on details and physical description only when absolutely necessary.  Most of the book takes place in thought or in conversation.

The other thing that really worked for me was Card's pace. Paragraphs can move the storyline up days, months or years, while some entire chapters are a single important conversation.  It's a short book, but Card seriously doesn't waste much time.  I appreciated it.

I have only two complaints and they are minor.  One, there's no way that kids of this age could believably think and act the way they do.  I conjured up some pretty elaborate stuff from six to twelve, but I couldn't have even played a game of StarCraft well or survived a Nickelodeon obstacle course at that age.  Two, I couldn't help but feel that the Battle School sections got the most attention but didn't progress the character as much as the rest.  It's fun to read the battle simulations that Ender experiences, but they are similar to Hogwart's quidditch matches.  Engaging, but not where the meat of the book lays.  

One more thing about Card, he is quite the visionary.  Original publish date of Ender's Game pre-dates a lot of significant sci-fi and modern technology.  I wouldn't have blinked if I learned this book was written in the 90s.  Card displayed an amazing sense of zero-G environments and networked computer systems.  

I can definitely see myself reading Ender's Game again in the future.  The journey of Ender's psyche should still be interesting even when knowing the future.  Perhaps that will even lend itself to alternate interpretations.  I am, however, skeptical of reading future books in the series.  The ending takes a radical left turn towards a direction I don't feel will stimulate the same parts of my brain.

Have you read Ender's Game?  What are your thoughts on it?  Did you read any of the next books?  Does reading this post raise some interest in reading it for the first time?

2 comments:

  1. I have been thinking about reading this book for at least 6 months. I think your review is the impetus I need to stop hesitating and order it.

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  2. I recently read this book for my Honors English class and it was amazing. I really enjoyed all of th4e struggles Ender had to go through and what not. And i am currently reading the second book "Speaker For The Dead" and I think that its even better than the first book

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