Ender's Game

Rating: +

Orson Scott Card

This is one of the "classics" of science fiction, and is good enough that it probably even deserves that reputation. It's the story of a child living in the future who, through government monitoring and interference, has been bred to be the smartest, yet still emotionally stable, person they can find. And the fate of the world rests on this boy, Ender, being good enough, though it isn't until later in the book that you understand why.

The story is told mostly from Ender's perspective, with only small glimpses at the start of each chapter of what the adults around him are thinking, so lots of the background for the story doesn't come out until the end of the book. The book starts when Ender is tested and then selected to be sent off\ to "Battle School" to learn how to fight the bugger aliens that attacked Earth years before and may come again. Nothing is allowed to be easy for Ender, because he needs to be pushed to be the best he can. So the instructors turn against him time and again, and Ender has to learn how to beat the other children and the administration at their own games. It's the ultimate "coming of age against adversity" story.

I had a lot of fun reading the scenes in battle school where the children learn how to attack each other in zero-gravity rooms, and Ender's intelligence is tested by an adaptive computer game on the school computer. (As a side note, I found the game very reminiscent of the instructive book in Stephenson's The Diamond Age and wonder if Stephenson was inspired in that by reading this book...) Most of the book followed a pattern of Ender being faced with another puzzle-like hurdle and him figuring out how to beat it.

The second aspect of the book dealt with the necessity of Ender being not only smart, but being emotionally stable, and useful to the government. His older brother and sister were both also tested, and while they both were sufficiently intelligent, his brother was too brutal, and his sister wasn't brutal enough. This lends two interesting themes to the book. Ender, as the sibling who finally hits the right balance, is capable of being brutal when necessary, but is also compassionate enough to regret it when he is. Ender contemplates in great depth whether the fact that he is capable of being brutal makes him as evil as his brother, even if he only unleashes that brutality in critical situations.

For me, perhaps the most interesting part of the book, though, was the few chapters where we see the relationship that grows between Ender's brother and sister after Ender leaves. His sister spent their whole childhood protecting Ender from their brother, but after Ender leaves, his brother hatches a plan to become as powerful and important as Ender, but in his own way, and he requires his sister's help. Like Ender, they end up having to put aside the signs of their youth and acting like adults. However, while Ender was forced into it, they take adult roles on themselves voluntarily. Additionally, they are constantly vying for superiority, and it isn't clear which one is really in charge and which is being manipulated to think they are in charge by the other.

This book has tons of depth. It's got neat things to say about the nature of childhood and what children are capable of that adults might not be able to accomplish. There are also fun bits about international relations, both on the Earth and between Earth and the aliens. And lots of puzzles for Ender to solve. I haven't decided whether I want to read the sequel, since I hear that it is quite a different type of book, but I really enjoyed this book a lot. A definite '+'.


Return to Amanda's Review Page

All contents of this site copyright, contact amh@io.com with any questions or comments.