Camaraderie. That is, in one word, the draw that wars, any war, have for me. The tale of how you team up with a bunch of people in order to accomplish...moreCamaraderie. That is, in one word, the draw that wars, any war, have for me. The tale of how you team up with a bunch of people in order to accomplish something, the ordeals the group and its individuals go through and, finally, the reward, whatever that may be.
Some background first. Earth is at war with an alien race known as the 'buggers,' has been for some time now, enough that there have been two major conflicts already, and humanity is unsure whether they can survive a third. Thus, the Fleet places their hope in children, genius children that are trained to become soldiers and officers.
Ender Wiggins is such a child. To some, he's humanity's last hope, with the potential to become the greatest Fleet Commander the world, the galaxy, has ever seen. But first he must survive Battle School, where he'll be brutally tested beyond endurance over and over again. The lesson he must learn: win every time. For in the war with the buggers, defeat means annihilation.
That's the story for me. First, we'll follow Ender through Battle School where he'll train for combat in null-g and learn to command an army. Then, we'll move on to Command School where he'll learn to command a fleet. Throughout the story we'll be plagued by Ender's dark musings about the man he's being made into and the man he wants to be. While in Battle School (and Command School as well), the balance between action and quiet introspection is achieved nicely. It's always better when Ender, and thus the reader, learns something through action rather than have it forced upon the reader by the author.
However, the story sags a little in other areas. For instance, the whole Locke/Demosthenes bit rather stretches credibility. First, that they could manipulate world opinion that easily and in such a short amount of time. Second, that nobody ever caught on to them and exposed them. Third, and perhaps most important of all, why is this bit worth telling? To highlight that the Wiggins are smart? To highlight everybody else in the world is dumb? Take away Locke and Demosthenes and you can still have increasing tension between the I.F. and the Warsaw Pact, a short civil war, and the subsequent return to peace. To be honest, when Ender left for Battle School, I didn't expect to read about Peter or Valentine ever again and was glad for it.
Another problem is perhaps one of duration. I wasn't gladly surprised to find out that the war is apparently fought and won in a single book. It seemed rushed, like the author wasn't all that interested in the war itself, and that it was just a means to an end. Even once the war with the buggers is won, another war breaks out between the Warsaw Pact and the I.F. The entire conflict lasts two pages at most.
For me, the drive of the story was the conflict with the buggers. Ender trains to fight that war sometime in the future. The reader expects then that the war will take several instalments to reach its conclusion. It doesn't, the future is actually the present and it's all over before you know it. After that, the author speeds up things again to end up with a teenage Ender that has decided to explore the galaxy with his sister, since peace isn't exactly his area of expertise.
On a different note, I tried to read the follow up novel, "Speaker for the Dead." Took me a few pages to decide I wasn't very keen on it. Picture 17th century Earth history but in space. Of course, the author uses "Ender's Game" to set up the background for this novel, apparently his masterpiece and the novel he had intended to write all along (what probably explains why the war with the buggers was rushed to conclusion). The fact that Novinha reminds of that kid in "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake doesn't help. Even after a couple of pages the preaching seemed apparent.
I checked descriptions for other books in the Ender's Saga but found nothing of interest. I actually thought the saga would be about Ender's war with the buggers but it seems I was mistaken. Oh, well, I guess it paid off not buying the box set after all. You live, you read, and you learn.
Summing up, "Ender's Game" is, despite its weaknesses, a pretty good read. Had it been entirely about Ender's journey I might have given it a four out of five but, alas, that is not so. My recommendation? Read it, then take a look at "Speaker for the Dead" and ask yourself which do you like best. If, like in my case, you prefer the former, then you've read the first and last book in Ender's Saga. If not, enjoy the ride and let me know if there's a leprechaun on the other side with a pot of gold.(less)