Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (Tor, 1994)

Grade: Α — Great book, must read regardless of what Genres you enjoy.  Makes you think of things beyond the scope of the book.

In brief:

Ender’s Game is probably the best YA book I’ve ever read. Indeed, it creates the bar by which all other YA books should be measured: it is only YA because the protagonist is a young adult.  It never condescends to its readers and never belittles the main character as being just a kid.  It is a remarkably brutal and intense Science Fiction tale that is well worth reading what ever your age. 

Setting:

The mid-to-Far future where humanity is in a xenocidic war with a ruthless alien species. Interstellar transport exists, though at slower-than-light-speeds, but communications can be conducted Faster-than-light.

In Depth:

Why am I reviewing a well known and highly awarded book this week?  I do it because Ender’s Game really is the benchmark by which any coming of age story should be measured.  It follows the story of Ender Wiggins, a young man sent to Battle School to learn how to become a commander in a war for survival against an alien species.  The school is cruel and brutal, but with a purpose: create the ultimate strategists for the ultimate war. Indeed, it is not the futuristic elements of this story that captivate, but rather the realism that grips the reader.

Unlike most stories about young men and women (include the illustrious and personally beloved Harry Potter series) Ender’s Game pulls no punches.  It avoids all of the romanticized clichés that most stories about teens and preteens fall victim to.  Instead, it portrays the cruel and often vicious interactions of kids with a stark realism. Yet, neither does it cop-out by being all about brutality.  It shows the loyalty and deep bonding that is an equal part of young life.   

This is a case of Science Fiction used to its best ends: the illustration human nature through the use of the fantastic.  Ender’s Game examines the nature of young men and women and their ability to address the world in a more adult manner than they are usually allowed to. I truly loved this book, and only wish that more YA books would follow its lead.  Indeed, I wish more books in general would do this. 

I should note that this is the first book in two parallel series: Xenocide and Ender’s Shadow, however, Ender’s Game s a stand alone book in it’s own right.   

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
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16 Responses to Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (Tor, 1994)

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    My opinion on this novel echoes this article…. The morality of Ender’s Game seriously bothers me. Perhaps I’m over analyzing it…

    http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_000.htm

  2. Thomas Evans says:

    No I don’t think you are over analyzing it. I suppose, however, that it boils down to the nature of what is being said. In Ender’s Game, OSC examines the question as to whether or not the ends justify the means and whether sins performed for the good of the community can be a form of redemption in and to itself.

    I am not certain I agree with the conclusions reached in Enders Game, on this point, nor am I certain OSC does for the matter, but rather I find the examination of the question an interesting one. If one sells one soul to the devil in return for the salvation of humanity, does that count as a sin?

    • Bridget says:

      I’m not sure there are any conclusions reached in Ender’s Game about whether the ends justify the means. Ender doesn’t seem to think so, but those in power sure do. The adults tell him that he’s pure and innocent, but Ender doesn’t believe that; that’s why he calls himself the Speaker For The Dead. He feels he owes it at least to the buggers – whose entire race he wiped out – to tell their story, because he is the only one who can.

      I think OSC leaves it up to us a little to decide whether the ends justify the means. Yes, Ender does some bad things when he was younger with very few outside consequences, but those memories torture him. I don’t think he’s “pure and innocent” but he does have a point about wanting to win not only the first fight, but all the next ones, as well.

      • Thomas Evans says:

        Agreed. Still, I think that OSC’s later works (particularly the Shadow series) and his outside commentaries suggest that in general, he thinks that the ends do justify the means, depending upon the cause. Also, your points about Ender are key to the argument. He is haunted by his choices, and thus he avoids the Hitler as Jesus motif.

        Indeed, I often think that Ender’s psychology is the perfect illustration of the X-gen mindset.

      • Joachim Boaz says:

        Oh, I haven’t read the sequels to Ender’s Game (because I was so frustrated with the first one) — so I didn’t know how OSC treats him later.

  3. Joachim Boaz says:

    Perhaps if there was some realization on Ender’s part of his early bad deeds — but, OSC repeatedly rams home the view that’s he’s pure and innocent… arghhh….

  4. JoJo Jensen says:

    Loved this book and still re-read it! What I can do without are the sequels-they did nothing for me. I hope you will share if you find another books like Ender’s Game – ’cause I’ll be running to the bookstore.

    Thanks for the great reviews!

    • Thomas Evans says:

      Agreed. Ender’s Shadow had some value, but after that, they tended to detract from the original rather than add to it.

      • Bridget says:

        I really liked Ender’s Shadow – it was really cool to see basically the same story but from Bean’s perspective – but I couldn’t get into any of the actual sequels. I still have them, though, so I’m definitely going to try again one day. 🙂 What’s the order of them, again?

  5. Thomas Evans says:

    It was a really good idea, and though not quite as thrilling as ender’s Game, it still told a good tale.

    As for the other Shadow sequels, well… I’ll be reviewing them in future weeks, but in short, I think they go down in quality as they progress. They get a bit preachy and seem to me to undermine some of the strongest elements of the earler stories. In short: Bean’s story ends up being dominated by elements of his past and to that end, it defines him (and in one sense Ender) as being unable to grow beyond the limits of his childhood. The diametrically opposite message as the first sets of the series.

  6. Yolanda says:

    I’ve just started reading this book, so I’m really excited now, based on the comments here. I’ll let you know what I think of the book in a few days.

  7. greypost says:

    Great review! I think it is much better than mine. I wouldn’t have bothered to write it if I had read yours first! Did you know they are coming out with a movie? I hope they don’t mess it up.

    • Thomas Evans says:

      I liked your review! I fear what they could do to it, on two fronts.

      They could pull an Earthsea on it or OSC could have too much input and get all preachy as he has tended to do in his later works.

      • greypost says:

        Yes the later works also started getting a little too fantastical and bizarre for my taste with the metal container which could travel to places instantaneously and Ender’s sister and brother appearing in the thing when he came back from the other place(sorry I forget the name).

  8. Pingback: Ender’s Game: The Movie | The Archaeologist's Guide to the Galaxy.. by Thomas Evans

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