Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

I’ve decided that if I’m going to have a blog where I review books, I need to review my favorites, even if they’ve been out for years and years. I owe it to the world (well, or at least whatever small percentage of the world reads my blog) to let them know why these books are amazing. And I couldn’t think of a better one to start with than Ender’s Game.

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Plot:

It is the future. Earth has survived an attack from an insectile alien race – barely. Population control laws are in effect. Families are limited to 2 children. Young children are monitored to see if they have military potential, and those that show promise at an early age are whisked away to train in the military’s Battle School, in the hopes that by the time they reach adulthood, they will possess the necessary skills to defend the Earth, if the aliens – “buggers” – ever return.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a rare third child in his family. His older brother and sister showed intellectual promise, but his brother was too ruthless and his sister too compassionate to qualify for Battle School. So the Wiggin parents were permitted a third chance to produce a military prodigy. And they succeeded.

Ender is whisked away to Battle School at the ripe old age of 6. The School, located on a space station orbiting the Earth, is populated by military officers and child prodigies. Ender is one of the youngest.

And these are not your average children.

They train daily in space military tactics, weaponry, and combat. Although they are all at an age that we associate with Dora, Spongebob, and Hannah Montana, these kids are nothing like the children currently roaming your local elementary school hallway. They are calculating, intuitive, sometimes ruthless, always dangerous.

One of the main focuses of the School is the battleroom, where the children are equipped with special suits and laser guns that allow them to fight each other in zero-gravity. On Ender’s first trip to the battleroom, it becomes quickly apparent that he is a cut above the other students. Some of his peers respect this. Some are threatened by it.

And as Ender works his way up through the ranks of Battle School, his teachers take notice, and wonder if perhaps Ender is the child they’ve been waiting for. The child who can change everything. The child who can save Earth.

Why I Love It:

Don’t let the summary throw you off. Ender’s Game may be a book about children, but it is by no means a book for children. The children in this book are nothing like how we picture children (as the mother of an almost-6-year-old, I can say this pretty definitively). Everything about this book is aimed at an adult audience.

Ender’s Game is not a thriller or adventure story, although some of the battleroom scenes are exciting. More than anything, it’s an examination of the mind of Ender Wiggin, the culture he lives in, and a world under military rule. And it’s all fascinating.

Mr. Card writes Ender in a way that while you understand he is just a child, you can still be awed, chilled, and amazed at his thoughts and actions. As a matter of fact, all of the characters are interesting and intriguing, from his friends at the Battle School, to his sociopath brother Peter, to the Commander of the Battle School, Colonel Graff.

There is a twist at the end of Ender’s Game. You may see it coming; you may not. I did, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book one bit. The fact that I have read this book over and over again, in spite of knowing the twist ending, speaks to the strong writing of the rest of the book. The book doesn’t exist just to throw you off at the end. The book exists to make you think, to draw you completely into the character of Ender, and to absorb you in the science-fiction world he lives in.

Grade: A+

When one book just isn’t enough:

There are 4 sequels to Ender’s Game. They follow him into adulthood, far past the end of Ender’s Game. I love the sequels, but they’re very different in tone and scope from Ender’s Game; however, I did find that they resembled each other. So my suggestion is that if you enjoyed Ender’s Game (and I really, really hope you do), check out Speaker for the Dead from your local library, read the whole thing, and then decide if you want to keep going.

The sequels are:
Speaker for the Dead

Xenocide

Children of the Mind

Ender in Exile 

There is also a companion series to the Ender’s Game series, paralleling Ender’s story from the point-of-view of one of the secondary characters. It sounds weird – why would you want to read the same story all over again, knowing how it ends? But the Ender’s Shadow series is wonderful (only the first book parallels Ender’s Game. After that, its sequels detail events barely alluded to in the Ender’s Game sequels).

Content guide: Contains some disturbing scenes of violence towards and committed by children.

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