- Published: January 1985
- Publisher: Tor
- Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
- Series: The Ender Quintet
- Pages in Paperback: 368
- Followed by: Speaker for the Dead
- Quote: “In the moment I truly understand my enemy, then in that very moment I also love him.” —Source
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In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race’s next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew “Ender” Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn’t make the cut—young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.
Ender’s skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.
Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender’s two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives. —Source
Review of the Characters:
Ender— He was one of those rare characters that was cold and distant yet easy to connect and relate too. Ender had to disconnect because he was constantly being manipulated. His brilliance forced him to think about all the factors and that sometimes caused him to act harsh. As we watch Ender develop we see this raging battle psychologically as he struggles to be the greatest he could be without turning into his sadistic brother. The struggle was real and heartbreaking to watch. You can’t help but empathize with Ender as he asks,
“Why don’t they leave me alone, so I don’t have to hurt them?” —Source
This is no exaggeration either as he is constantly challenged with confrontations and difficult situations. Every time Ender adjusted to what they threw at him they added another element, so that he could never relax. Ender was a CHILD, he was six when we first meet him, and even though he was gifted he was still innocent and the author did a fantastic job of maintaining that aspect of Ender’s character. Ender was a brilliant protagonist and will remain one of my favorites for a long time.
Valentine— She was the least interesting of the three Wiggins but only because she wasn’t the chosen one like Ender and not sadistic like Peter. But I empathized with her situation the most, she was caught between her two brothers and forced to help one and manipulate another. It was a hard situation to be in and she describes it quite perfectly with,
“Two faces of the same coin. And I am the metal in between. The trouble with coins is, when one face is up, the other face is down.” —Source
And how right she was for helping one would be hindering another. Yet like Ender, the author maintains her child naivety so that her character while dealing with complex situations still attains her believability.
Peter— We don’t see much of Peter as we never enter his point of view but from other’s perspectives we can immediately understand why the army didn’t enlist him. As brilliant as he is, maybe as much as Ender, he lacks compassion and the ability to empathize. His greed and cunning sets him apart from the other children and was one of the only characters I found hard to believe. With that said however, he does develop and Valentine rubs off on him so that he grows into a decent leader. I believe the main purpose of Peter was to give something for Ender to fear, note that I did not say someone. For Ender did fear Peter himself he was ultimately more afraid of becoming Peter, and that is the driving force of the novel.
Review of the Story:
Can I just take a moment to rave about how this novel is far ahead of its time? It was written in 1985, the term ‘blogging’ wasn’t coined until the late 1990’s, but Orson Scott Card not only includes blogging in this novel, but the huge influence blogging contains. He was right on the mark with several things that I had to step back and admire his ability to look forward.
The story was original and entertaining. Ender’s journey through the ranks of battle school was fascinating to watch as the commanders always made life interesting. As soon as Ender figures how the game works they change the rules, its hard to watch but yet at the same time you can’t tear your eyes away. In Pillars of the Earth I had an issue with the plot device the author used; every single time the good guys got it together the bad guy would come in and stomp all over it. Every single time. It was too much of a pattern and it lost excitement. Well, the same plot device is used here, every time Ender excels, the commanders throw something in his path to see if he stumbles. The reason it works in Ender’s Game is because at the beginning of each chapter, we get a peek at what the commanders are thinking so knowing their intentions makes the up and down plot device with Ender believable.
The ONLY problem I have with the story was the less than satisfying ending. After the climax, our characters are just left there to react and I felt that some of the characters actions were misplaced. I’m also confused at how the series will continue as the ending seemed concrete and final. It makes me worried that the author created more books because of the pressure of the fans which causes suspicion about quality. But other than that, the story was unique and compelling. I commend the author for his ability to think forward.
Review of the Writing:
While the author switched from first person to third person often, it didn’t detract from the story but rather he wove it in a way that drew the reader closer. At times he was a bit preachy:
“All the boys are organized into armies.”
“A few girls. They don’t often pass the tests to get in. Too many centuries of evolution are working against them.” —Source
Ummm, what was that? Too many centuries of what exactly? For an author that thinks forward he purposely blinded himself to the fact that women have a more prominent place in this world than centuries ago. But I guess he made up for the comment by writing two kick ass females in the novel. So you got lucky Card, I didn’t have to hunt you down.
Other than that the overall message was clear: war and violence leaves scars that cannot heal. He demonstrates the implications of children having to grow up too fast and ultimately shows us where we are headed if we don’t prevail to think calmly. His writing provides a fast paced novel, that continues to build and build and all the while keeps you on the edge of your seat.
If you want to read real science fiction look no further, you’ll find compelling characters in Ender’s Game that tugs at your heart-strings and leave you attached until the very end. I recommend this novel to all those looking for an easy yet entertaining read.
P.S.– My next read is Honest Sid: Memoirs of a Gambling Man by Ronald Probstein