Alexander's Reviews > Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
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Dec 04, 13

Read in January, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I read this novel because it was often the favorite novel of students of mine, and I wanted to understand why. I should mention that I love science fiction, and have read it avidly since I was barely more than a child. I'm not by any means some kind of anti-sci-fi snob.

The first thing that bothered me is that the novel sets adults against gifted children in a way that strikes me as bizarre. Adults are essentially evil but teachers especially. The children are inherently excellent, capable of helping each other in trying to figure out just what the adults are hiding, which is, in this case, a vast and secret war they are tricking the children into fighting for them. This was perhaps the hardest to believe of all the things thrown at the reader, and interestingly, it is hidden from you until the very end, though you can guess at it before then.

What disturbed me the most is that the writing is terrible---far too much happens internally, inside the character's head--it's an emo space opera, basically--and one of the most interesting events of the book is nearly buried and the presentation of it is rushed, because it is near the end. There are many points in the battle scenes where it is impossible to understand what's happening. And the penultimate plot event, where it's revealed all of the games were not..games...could have been handled more interestingly. But the novel was overdetermined, things happening only because the writer wants them too and not because they feel inevitable, and so too many of the arrows point in the same direction. By the time Ender meets Mazer, his final teacher, my eyes rolled back into my head at the implausibility of it all.

And it's worth mentioning the thing no one prepared me for was the bizarre homoerotic subtext built into the book as well, a subtext that is sometimes just a plain old supertext, on display, right beside how women in this novel are to be loved distantly and kept from real knowledge, and turned against themselves, so they can then be used to compel others.

It creeped me out and I'm gay.

I'm also a former 'gifted child', and was tested and poked and pushed, all of these things, made to study computer programming when I didn't want to, and I made myself fail out of their program to get away from them. But I found no commonality with the gifted children here, not as I have in other stories about gifted children, say, like Salinger's Glass family. Also, these kids are all jerks.

I do hand it to Card for the ideas in the novel: blogging? Yes. It's in here, well before anyone was doing it, and it ...matters a lot, and in the ways blogging matters. Also the idea of an institution that runs on the manipulation of its populace into a distant war with an implacable foe, as a way of controlling people. And a society that has no privacy at all, not even in dreams. This novel does offer a dark picture of what life is like under these terms. Also, the idea of how a hive-mind would think differently, without language, and the complications of communicating with someone like that, that's brilliant also.

I wish it had been revised--that the battle scenes were clearer, that the movement of the novel's action, the way the 'buggers' are in a race to try and communicate with Ender before he kills them, that this were more obvious to the reader, and not a surprise whipped out at the end, so that it could have lent tension to the scenes of the games and manipulation, which were only boring. And Ender's decision, to be the Speaker for the Dead, that struck me cold, because in the end, the buggers were only trying to do what everyone else in his life were doing to him: poring over what makes him tick and trying to get him to do their bidding.

The novel contains a rant against style at the beginning, added by Card, called 'literary tricks' by him. I think the most interesting thing about it is that given the millions sold, it is proof that story matters more than style, even as convoluted and badly formed as this one is. In the end what matters is the questions the novel raises and the implications of the questions, and that the novel really is about something at its core, behind all of the badly rendered fight scenes. I admire style, don't get me wrong. I love it. But it would appear you can get by without it.

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Comments (showing 1-50 of 54) (54 new)


Adam Thank you for the review I wish I had written. Yeah this book sucks and the politics are horrible.


Nancy Great review! I wish I could express so eloquently how badly this book sucked.


Kerri Although I liked the book a lot, I do agree with some of your points: battle scenes were confusing, and the buggers should really be fleshed out more (frankly, I had forgotten about them halfway into the book. That way, perhaps you and I could have sympathized with the buggers more, and Ender becoming Speaker of the Dead wouldn't feel quite so tacked on.


Jeff Any chance that you imagined the homoerotic subtext because you are gay?


Kelly I thought this book was very homoerotic as well, and I am a straight woman.


Jeff You're too smart for me.


Vondur Pretty spot on review. I came to a lot of similar conclusions. And to the guy who commented above me...many people have suspected homoerotic subtext in this novel. I picked up on it while reading the book. Later after reading some reviews it was clear that I was not the only one who thought this.


message 8: by Jay (new)

Jay Caspian I assume you meant to give it seven out of five stars ?!?!?!


Stephen AC: read the whole series if you want to be creeped out even further. There's a book in the series I think called Xenocide, which sometimes I think is a crazy allegory for academics LOL.


message 10: by Daniel (new)

Daniel Evidently we differ in what we seek in a novel. Many of the aspects of the book you seem to feel detract from the writing, I find raise it up to a standard few other writers meet.I find the psychological thought processes of characters (especially bean in ender's shadow) to be the most intriguing and stimulating form of characterization. I'm a very cerebral guy, but how can one not enjoy delving into the thoughts of some of these characters. Their logic is precise and clean, detached for the most part from passions and emotions. It gives you a view into the thinking behind every strategic maneuver made throughout the book. And with regards to the symbolic, homosexual motives of characters, I can't help but disagree. I think approached with an understanding of the setting of the novel, these become less homoerotic and add for a touch of realism. A society in the future ought to be a more efficient one, a more logical one, and one free of a lot of sexual distraction. I think the co-ed nature of battle school, and the comfort level between boys-girls and boys-boys/girls-girls support the isolated setting of battle school. It's in the outer solar system. The only goal of everyone in the school is to defeat the buggers. To me, all this shows that they've been successful in removing sexual tension and allowing for a more efficient, intellect/strategy based microcosm. When I read this^ over, it sounds a little homosexual too, but it all makes sense in my mind.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Alex, I recommend this article on the book by another North Carolina writer, John Kessel, "Creating the Innocent Killer: Ender's Game, Intention, and Morality" http://www4.ncsu.edu/~tenshi/Killer_0...

I really enjoyed the book when I read it—I was 16 or 17 and liked the short story version, too. Although on a simplistic level, reading it as a kid in Scotland, the enemies being called buggers made the sexual politics of the novel pretty plain. I read anything by him (historical/religous romance? Sure!) for a while until they started creeping me out—some of his short fiction is messed up! Some in creepy ways, some in interesting ways.

The novel is a fascinating case study as it sells and sells (Bookscan says it's #1 on the science fiction charts this week (2500 copies sold) and they have it at almost 2 million sales so far) and yet it also drives people crazy. Oh well.


Randy Mulder I heard the author was mormon?
I heard he had made comments that denounce homosexuality?

I got the whole homoerotic feel from the content too.

Maybe it's creepy because he's in the closet.

Does an in the closet author send bizarre messages because of their repressed feelings?

Anyways, besides the psycho-social analysis of an author and his book, I would say he still got my attention with the internal dialogue of the main character. I don't mind that this is a twist on reality. Fiction is about...what if...
What if there will be a time when kids will think adults are up to no good and they have the special ability to out do them?!
You think this is farfetched?
I'm gay and have dyslexia. For some people growing up was all about not trusting others...even parents.
I think a lot of people can relate to getting away from where they grew up. Getting away from their family. Some people literally have to escape where they live to survive on their own at age 14. They go to school in big cities, find strangers to live with...and finally they get a job and place of their own. Some parents are darn right evil!
Have you looked around you? Have you talked to people about their past?
I have found countless people that had to escape their abusive parents, with or without special needs, in order to be themselves and survive. While they were kids they had to sleep with doors locked, sleep outside in the rain in their own backyard etc. and then go to school and church pretending everything is okay. Remember, kids and teens can have horrible lives and, therefore I can understand why they can be tough sometimes.
You try living with adults as a child wherein you donot know what the next day will bring all year round....from birth to your teens.

I think he hit these feelings right on the nail!

Brave author!


message 13: by Izy (new)

Izy Betancourt I completely Disagree.

It doesn't try to set up the adults as enemies but expresses the views of adults from a child's perspective. & usually from a gifted child's perspective they are either stupid or lack morality. The teacher's aren't being evil but trying to raise soldiers not human beings. And the best way is to ignore certain morals & teach/train them with a lack of compassion.

The whole of a story takes place in the mind because that's how Over-analytical people tend to be. Many tend to be the Introverted type, preferring to sit with a good book than join in with the group.

There is nothing Homoerotic about it. Except for the Sailor humor. When men live together in groups for a long time shame dwindles and their genitals are the butt of every joke.
The women being loved/admired from a distance the traditional "Hero's Dilemma" They love some one but protecting them takes priority, the way a soldier leaves his country to protect his family. And adds further to it with the idea quite a few have, relationships are distractions.

I personally have been considered gifted from a young age & found solace in this book, spending my time around other gifted children I still didn't fit in. And this book almost mirrored it, taking many ideas and views I had since I was a child it was my favorite, until I read Ender's Shadow.


message 14: by Ryu (new) - rated it 1 star

Ryu I completely agree with your review! When I stated the same feelings of this book, I also got people who countered this, so I thought I was the only one who thought it. Turns out I'm not!

With one of the first chapters of the book, Ender KNOWS that adults lie to him to hide things from him. He already knows that he should believe the opposite of what they tell him. But, that doesn't even stay true throughout the book. In the school, he thinks that the teachers are going to be there to help him no matter what. The story goes back on itself throughout the entire book. That just goes to bad writing.

I completely agree with the lack of details. The battles were so vague, and when he did describe anything, it was mostly confusing. I think he is just not a good action writer. He doesn't know how to write those types of scenes, therefore he doesn't. I do agree with leaving things to the imagination, but this book is lacking just enough.

Yes, there is obvious homoerotic subtext in this book. Which is weird, because yes, Card is mormon and a bigot. With that being said, anyone's idea that since it's the future, that it would be free of sexual distraction is incorrect. Card clearly states in chapter 3 that women are not equal to men. There is no "co-ed" in the school. One girl made it, therefore that means she isn't a girl. Again, the homoerotic subtext.

There is so much more to rant on about this book, but you did such a great job in your review to state them. Thank you!


Llalania I'm a fan of this book, the whole series with Ender really. I came to them as an adult, reading the series twice now in the year since I read Ender's Game. I can honestly say, I never saw the homoerotic angle. I was woried it would come up, worried because it's a bunch of kids, and that creeps me right the heck out, but then it didn't go anywhere so I interpreted it differently. Very interesting. And yeah, this book isn't for everyone. The squeals less so but sometimes the introspective books tickle my fancy. It's a rare thing.


Slofwnd while searching for hidden homoeroticcontent you are missing the whole meaning of the book :/


rameau Brilliant review, thanks for that. I love how much thought you've put into it, which is more than I can say about mine.


message 18: by Nick (new)

Nick Almand Absolute truth in your review. Rock on, man.


Lithium "Emo Space Opera"...hahahaha. Perfect review!


Joshua I'm in the process of reading it now and it is a little hard to visualize some parts but it is ok so far. I honestly do notice the homoerotic subtext and it bothers me. I hate authors who ruin a nice plot by poisoning it with their own offensive opinions.


Decker I hate authors who ruin a nice plot by poisoning it with their own offensive opinions."

Please tell me this is meant ironically.


Llalania Joshua wrote: "I'm in the process of reading it now and it is a little hard to visualize some parts but it is ok so far. I honestly do notice the homoerotic subtext and it bothers me. I hate authors who ruin a ni..."

While I agree with you to a point, I just have to point out that it's not possible for authors not to include their opinions. It just kinda comes out when you write.


message 23: by Auntie M (new) - added it

Auntie M It would be nice us your review didn't include GIANT SPOILERS, especially without any such label.


message 24: by Alexander (last edited Aug 12, 2013 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Alexander Auntie M wrote: "It would be nice us your review didn't include GIANT SPOILERS, especially without any such label." Uh... you mean the "spoiler alert" marked with asterisks in the first line didn't tip you off?


message 25: by Marshall (new)

Marshall The weird condescension by non-gay people is interesting: in their view, as a gay man you must be looking for it rather than simply better-equipped than they are to see it. That would piss me off more if I didn't already know that most people just aren't very bright. This isn't the only one of Card's books to show a creepy homoerotic (and even pedophilic)undertone. In fact, I think Lost Boys was even worse than this one.


message 26: by Marshall (new)

Marshall (To clarify, I mean looking for the homoerotic undertone.)


message 27: by Nick (new)

Nick Almand Marshall: I thought it was just horrid in Ender's Shadow. The way he kept lovingly obsessing over how small Bean was made me put the book down.


Alex ☯the last Took standing☯ It wouldn't be the first time a book produces such a different reaction in different people, but after reading your review (very well written, by the way) I got the idea that there's too much of you in this review.. and when I say "too much", I mean that your review has to do much more with you than with the book.

You said "The first thing that bothered me is that the novel sets adults against gifted children in a way that strikes me as bizarre." I can't disagree more, and I thought saying something like that meant you read the letter but not the spirit. And then you went on "Adults are essentially evil but teachers especially". That's the point. You're a teacher, and that's why you couldn't read the spirit. I mean, the story mentions almost no teacher, except Maze. So I think you refer to Graff. I don't think anybody loves Ender more than Graff does, with the exception of Valentine. But it hit the wrong vibe in you with the teacher stuff, so you chose not to see the meaning behind the story.

You found a "bizarre homoerotic subtext". I had no idea where could you find that.. until I read you're gay. Again, it hit the wrong vibe in you. As the whole gifted child thing did: you were a gifted child, too.

I honestly think half way around the book you forgot about Ender and started to read about yourself. Which is a pity, since I think it's an amazing story, a place where deep philosophical discussions about mankind take place. And "Speaker for the Dead" is even better. But I guess you're not interested on it, right? :)

I enjoyed your review because I like to see several sides of the story, not just mine, and you wrote it very well. But I think you're wrong, dear Goodreads' mate :)


Alexander I haven't replied to the people who've accused me of looking for the subtext 'because I'm gay', especially as I've had many or even more commenters take my side--gay or not, as you'd see in the above comments. But perhaps, several years in, it's time. So here we go: this idea, that only a gay person would see a gay subtext because they imagine it, is insulting. That's just all there is to it. You'd be better off arguing the substance of the novel or the review, but once you start getting into my identity as the source of the problem, you're just being prejudicial.


message 30: by Joey (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joey I don't see any homoeroticism in this book. Where do you see it? I agree too much is in Ender's mind, and this will be hard to deal with in the movie. You can't know Ender just by his actions, you have to know the motivation


Llalania well, since this series (Ender's Game, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide and Children of the Mind) are the only books by Card I've read, I have to say that I didn't see any homoeroticism in them at all. It just didn't strike me that way and I'm not in the least homophobic. I just think different people get different things out of it.


message 32: by Nick (new)

Nick Almand A naked brawl between two males in the all-male shower room doesn't strike anyone as homoerotic?

'kaaaay.


message 33: by Joey (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joey as a homo, I don't find that erotic at all. I don't associate violence with eroticism..unless its mutual of course.


message 34: by Mimi (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mimi To be honest I think it's the fact that the author is homophobic that makes any "homoerotic subtext" so creepy, it's like his eerie hatred and prejudice leaks into the book even if he doesn't intend it to. Although, I've read posts elsewhere that expound upon the parts in this book that can be construed as homophobic. But even without that, the book would still be awful, but maybe not as repulsive to me.


message 35: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Great review...you explained to me exactly why I don't want to read this book, before I read it. Now I'm going to read a better book.


message 36: by Ali (new)

Ali i completely agree. you exactly explained why i had finally accomplished to finish this book in 3 months. the reason which i had thought was me (i am not a native english speaker) is well explained in these words of yours;

"far too much happens internally"

i got sick of sentences like those;

"and he felt this way, and he felt that way, he was not afraid of that, he missed her....bla bla bla blaaaaaaaaa!"

and also i had guessed the amazing super surprise end before almost 30 pages from the end!

this book is totally waste of time. i will think again when i decide a book to read next time.


message 37: by Nick (new)

Nick Almand There's the entire horror film genre that makes a habit of associating violence and sexuality as a matter of course that may see the possibility differently.


Rebecca Robinson Great review, I hated this book and could not wait for it to be over.....I agree 100% with you


message 39: by Powa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Powa I read the whole book and I have no idea where there is a homoerotic subtext!


Adrian Bernardino I believe that in every book we read we try to put ourselves in the main characters shoes and somehow switch their perception into our own. I really mean no disrespect to you, sir. I am not saying that "because you're gay you saw blah blah blah", I'm saying that maybe next time you should really read a book from the characters POV. He's an 11-yr-old boy in a school much like our military's basic training. It's like a middle school boys locker room on steroids.


Alexander Fényi I think the book was good but but not great. I can't help but feel that the real story is in the next three books, and this first one serves more like presentation of Ender, Val and Peter. while this book handles a more individual psychology the following story (book 2,3 & 4 in the series) is much more philosophical with the bittersweet taste of religion diluted in the massiveness of a galactic civilization. yummy.


Brian Surratt Could it be that your students like the book so much because they can relate to Ender and the other child characters? I didn't read the book until I was 40, but when Ender was jumped by the bullies in the first or second chapter my mind immediately went back to a middle school bathroom where some goon tried to have some fun at my expense. I did the same quick analysis that Ender did and came to same conclusion as he did. If the goon walked out of that bathroom feeling like he won, I'd been his punching bag for weeks or months to come. So, I didn't give as good as I got, but neither one of could deny that we'd been in a fight.

And then when we both end up in the principal's office, we both get the same punishment. Even though it was clear that he was the instigator. So, from that experience I also learned to distrust and not rely on teachers to keep me safe. A lesson Ender learns as well.

Finally, he estranged from his parents because he's a Third and the contract they entered into in order to have him. He's a genius kid amongst brilliant siblings. He's alienated from the other students because he's a Third and the government monitor. Given all of this, the heavy use of an internal voice seems completely appropriate.


message 43: by Catherine (new)

Catherine Metzger If it takes books like Card's to teach us through story to "use our powers to create and not to destroy" then this is a meaningful series.


message 44: by Deon (new) - rated it 3 stars

Deon Maybe I'm just not as clever as many of you as the homo-eroticism just didn't occur to me. This perhaps also explains why I seem to be the only one who was surprised by the ending!
I do agree with the comments regarding the last few pages of the book. It seems as if Card needed to create a springboard for the sequel and went about it a bit hastily and superficially. All in all, though, the book isn't that bad.


Vasanth My thoughts exactly. Though in theory, the story, superfluous it may seem, it is a fast read and stuns you in places, I feel it is very rushed, not allowing space for character development. He dwells so much into Ender's syche, not much is said about Ender the child, his torment afterwards and so on. It does taper off, very abruptly, a disappointment there surely. But overall, at the time it was published, surely was novelty and astounding.


message 46: by Kimberly (new) - added it

Kimberly Excellent review. Nothing else really needs to be said.


Marta I didn't notice the homoerotic subtext, can you tell me where/between whom is it? I think your review is good, but a little exaggerated. I loved that book despite all of things you've mentioned. :)


Delaney I do really think you got the message this book was trying to give off. Yes, it had some things about a teachers. It still was a beautifully written book. It was about how you should never give up even if you thought everything was against you. It show how it does not matter how old you are, you can do great things. And about Ender becoming the speaker for the dead. I personally think that that was beautiful, he had been ticked in to killing an entire species. He felt awful about it and that he had been lied to. He just wanted to make sure everyone from now on was to the truth. I believe that Ender did the best with the situation he was given. If it had been you would you have let the human race die???


Keary But of all the ways to resolve the dispute, card chose in the nude, and not only in the nude, be he kills him by kicking him in the crotch. If card is gay, but doesn't want to be because of society etc, resolving the issue by violence to the thing that he deems is wrong but is attracted to could be considered symbolic.


Keary But of all the ways to resolve the dispute, card chose in the nude, and not only in the nude, but he kills him by kicking him in the crotch. If card is gay, but doesn't want to be because of society etc, resolving the issue by violence to the thing that he deems is wrong but is attracted to could be considered symbolic.

Next time you read the book count the number of times he mentions little boy asses in the first 50 pages. Hint: It's more than a few.


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