Roy's Reviews > Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
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Jan 02, 2008

really liked it
Read in August, 2009

At a precocious age, our hero is rescued from a dangerous and depressing home situation and taken to a boarding school to be educated and challenged. The headmaster that has sought out this boy believes he is so special and important, that he may be the only real hope that the world has for a prosperous future. The boy is immediately singled out as unique, inspiring either fierce loyalty or great antagonism from the other students in the school. The school also, I must say, is any child’s dream, as it is fantastic and exotic; an environment where anything can happen. Also at this school, which is divided up into seemingly arbitrary groups, everyone is singularly fixated on an intramural sport that involves flying.

Ender Potter is a great kid. He’s smart (a genius, really), introspective, genuinely courageous, and a rather reluctant hero. All fantasy-boy-hero comparisons aside, Ender is also a bad-ass who is going through some strong emotional conflict and self-doubt. To me, he comes closest to human when he nears exhaustion and dismay, and wants to quit. Like many fiction books, where the reader follows “the one,” the perfect, best, greatest, winner; the character rings hollow, or at least unfamiliar, in his unflinching success. Why do these books never follow the B+ student? I guess no one wants to hear about a life like mine, even in fiction.

This book delves into the psyche of a commander and brilliant strategist. Card elucidates how Ender sees competition and situations. We learn how Ender uses resources and makes decisions, but as a biography of a commander, it does not go into what it is like to send one, or one thousand, to their death, which must be one of the more gut-wrenching decisions a tactician can make. It certainly seems to be one of the things that prematurely ages our Commanders-in-Chief. For Ender, this decision is removed because he is playing games and simulations.

My one major fault with this book is the underdeveloped Peter-Valentine side story. Card commits only a hand full of chapters to this plot line, and much of the development of this story is reported, rather than described as it happens. Peter is set up to be a worthy antagonist for Ender (a near genius, a sadist that has few doubts about his motivations, and someone who sees the political environment as clearly as Ender sees the battle field) but Card pulls his punch in the concluding chapters, and wraps that storyline up in flashback and explanation in the end of the novel.

One thing I do appreciate is that though Ender is near super-human in capabilities, he still has crisis of confidence and doubt, making him more of a man (well, boy) and less a superhero-planet saver.
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