I first read Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, about twenty years ago. It had a pretty big impact at that time, though this time it actually made more sense (life experience and all that, I guess). This time I read it to prepare for seeing it on the big screen in November.
Because the government has to give special permission for a couple to have a third child, and they are very stingy about doing that, third children are very rare and carry somewhat of a stigma. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a “Third”, meaning a third child, and is therefore subject to all kinds of bullying and teasing at school. As if that weren’t enough, his older brother, Peter, mentally and physically tortures him at home, but is able to hide what he does from their parents. The only reason Peter doesn’t go further is because of their sister, Valentine, who stands up for Ender.
After brutally defeating a bully at school, Ender is whisked off to Battle School, a place designed to train those who will fight the alien Formics when they come back for a third invasion. The leaders of the humans want to make sure the devastation that happened during the first two invasions never happens again.
This book can be hard to read sometimes, especially when you remember that Ender is six years old at the beginning of the story. The way the characters talk and act isn’t at all like real children that age except in a few minor ways. Even the more “mundane” children at Ender’s school give the feel of being in junior high or high school rather than just starting out (practically) in elementary school. I think this is a deliberate tool used by Card to show how intelligent and different they are, and it definitely does that.
The only aspect of the story which rubbed me the wrong way was the overall flow of the book. It was almost as if there were multiple individual stories which were mushed together into one whole, and it didn’t always work very well. This might be partially due to the story being expanded from a short story (and changed quite a bit along the way).
It’s really difficult to point to a single spot in the story and say, “There, that’s what I mean.” It was more of a general feel as I read the book. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book this time, because I really did. Rather, it interfered just a little bit with my enjoyment of the book.
The only caution I would give to those considering this book for their children is to be aware of the graphically brutal descriptions in several places in the story when Ender gets into fights and during some of the dream sequences. Read the book first to make sure it is something they can handle. Some of the imagery could induce nightmares in the imaginatively creative among us.
Outside of that, I think this a good book for teens and up, and it’s a good book for introducing someone to science fiction in general. Ender’s Game doesn’t dwell much on the technical side of science fiction, and the story will catch the interest of most anyone. Go pick up this book and read it before the film comes out!
Release Date: January 1985 (USA)
ISBNs: 0812533550 (978081233552)
Publisher: Tor Books
Language: 2 (occasional expletives, deity)
Violence: 3 (some graphic descriptions of fights, animal torture)