Ruchita's Reviews > Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
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's review
Oct 01, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: sci-fi, fiction
Read in September, 2011

[I have a new website where I review awesome books & more!]

I wanted to like Ender's Game. I really did. It's a wonder that even after more than halfway into the book, I still clung on to the foolishly optimistic notion that the book would somehow redeem itself. That it would end up justifying the tedious, repetitive, drearily dull chapters I trundled through over the course of several days (which is unusual, since I'm generally a fast reader).

It pains me to say it, as a hardcore fangirl of science fiction, that one of sci-fi's most beloved and highly regarded novels did not do it for me. Actually, that is understating it. While I'm at it, I'll just duck and blurt it out: I loathed Ender's Game.

Deep breaths. Let that sink in. Let the hate flow through you. Good, strike me down...I am unarmed.

Okay. Now let's get to it.

Was it because the expectations I had in my mind were unreasonably high and thus were responsible for ruining the book for me? No way. I make no bones about the fact that Ender's Game, regardless of the respect and popularity it commands in sci-fi circles, is an inherently bad novel.

Why, though, you might ask. Why such vitriol for the book? Here you are, then.

1) Bad plotting: It didn't take me long to realise that after I was past Ender's arrival at the Battle School, every - literally every chapter thereon until his return to Earth - was more or less the same thing. Battle games, beating the shit out of kids, battle games, switching back and forth to Armies, battle games. It was so repetitive that I was exhausted at the end of every.single.chapter. Page after page after page of six year old, seven year old, eight year old Ender and his buddies zooming about in ships trying to freeze one another's socks off. Wheeee!

2) Lack of characterisation: There are no personalities. There are no motivations. You never learn anything about the characters except that they are the good guys or the bad guys. Ender is brilliant at everything. He NEVER loses. Not once. Bernard, Stilson and Co. are the bad guys. They're evil baddies cause dey r jealuz of ender's brilliance omg!!! That's it. No background, no depth, no internal conflicts. No motivation. Words cannot express how two-dimensional and woefully lacking in personality the characters are.

3) Demosthenes and Locke. What the heck was that all about? I appreciate Card's prescience about the 'Nets' and blogging before it was around, but come on, this is pushing it a bit too far. How, I beg you, how are we supposed to take the idea that a pair of kids end up taking the world by posting in online forums and blogging?

As if we people of the internet didn't have enough delusions of grandeur already. ;)

4) Now, this really gets my goat:I had to wait for the last 20 pages to get information that was of any worth to the story at all. I'm talking about Mazer's Rackham explaning (view spoiler) to Ender. As for the 'twist ending': I honestly, and I mean, honestly did not find that riveting. It was predictable and, worse, did not justify all that I had to read to make my way to the end.

5)Also: It was hard to feel for Ender. I say this as a high-school nerd in my own day, as the reviled and hated and made-fun-of socially awkward kid who wanted to be good at whatever they did. But that doesn't make me any more sympathetic to Ender. Honestly, I fail to see what's so great about Ender anyway. I am so infuriated at Card for this. Apart from Ender's claim to intelligence (which is never completely explained, by the way) there is nothing, NOTHING, that is worth justifying him as the protagonist of one of scifi's supposedly best books ever. Yes, he loves his sister Valentine. Yes, he doesn't want to hurt people. Yes, he goes ahead and does it anyway. Again and again. (view spoiler)

I am rarely so caustic about the books I read, but this time I feel I am justified in doing so. I had such hopes for this book. Not impossibly high or anything. At the very least, I had expected to like it, you know? I remember, as I worked my way past chapters 4,5,7,10,14...I expected it to get better. I expected myself to be mistaken at the initial dissatisfaction, then incredulity, then mild annoyance and then a string of sad sighs and resignation to dislike. Alas, I wasn't mistaken. I felt betrayed. I thought this book was right up there with those 'kindred ones', you know? The sort of books you can come back to again and again. Instead, what I got was a bad plotline, progressively unrealistic plot developments, and a cast of flat, lifeless, unpleasant characters to boot. Ender's Game, how I wish I had loved you. Why did you forsake me thus.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 429) (429 new)

Patrick you sound like an awful person

Jeremy Morgan And yet you liked Harry Potter, how sad.

Bom1221 I almost completely agree with you on every point of this book. Glad I read your review, I thought I was the only one.

Barbara Is the good guy the kind-hearted one who commits murder and genocide against his will or the evil-hearted ones who ultimately commit few if any acts of evil? Does Ender become more like Peter? Does Peter become more like "Locke," and does Valentine become more like "Demosthenes"? The line between good and evil is so blurry.

Julien V I think your review is spot-on... I can't understand the cult-like following of this book. Maybe the implied conservative politics? The repressed homoerotism? I mean, compared with great SF like I'll never understand how people come to worship simplistic, unbelievable tripe like this.

Timothy Frederick I can usually fly through books pretty quickly. I'm a little over halfway through this one after over two months. I've read six books during my frequent breaks. It's just not grabbing me at all.

message 7: by Sue (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sue I couldn't have said it better! And I'm so happy to see that I'm not the only one who did not care for Ender's Game.

Andre People read more into this book than the author puts in it...

Ashley Am I to imagine that you have never served in the military? Apparently not if you cannot bear the repetitive nature of Ender's life. When there is war, you train. Harder than the day before and with little to no sleep. Those of us who have served, know and love this book because we live it day to day, and we carry our past with us just as Ender does. We carry our regrets and our love for the fallen, be it by our hands or not. This book is not without characters, you simply do not have the perspective with which I see them. Also keep in mind that the first edition was in 1985, a world without bloggers who might want to overthrow the government via the Internet. Join the military, if they'll take you, then read it again.

message 10: by Bill (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bill Nostrom Wow. Really? Wow. Wow, seriously, the absolute shallowness that this review reveals amazes me. I'm not easily surprised but this one got me. Wow.

message 11: by Matthew (last edited Feb 20, 2013 03:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matthew Ottewell You are really criticizing the novel based on blogging? You realize this novel was written in 1985, aka 300 baud modems?

I get it, and I don't expect more out of the majority of your generation, but Christ, really? Lolz.

Edit: To protect my response, realize I feel some sort of obligation to attack the rest of your review, but some parts are so bad that it is easier to settle on your weak components. Sorry, you have not earned a more thorough review.

Diane I am so with you on this book. I admire you for slogging through. I quit 2/3 of the way, deeming it a waste of my time to finish. On to better books.

message 13: by Jenn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jenn I completely agree with your review! You explained it perfectly.

Melissa totally agree!

Hollygolightly I wanted to like it as well, but I could get into it.

message 16: by J.W. (new)

J.W. It always creeped me out that Ender was so emotionless and unsympathetic. He reminded me of a sociopath-- sympathetic only towards his sister, and obeying his sister's morality on those grounds alone. He behaved more like a thirty-year-old than a child, and that drove me crazy. I agree with you-- it was readable, but pretty lousy. I hope the movie improves the story dramatically.

message 17: by Tane (new) - rated it 1 star

Tane Ashley wrote: "Am I to imagine that you have never served in the military? Apparently not if you cannot bear the repetitive nature of Ender's life. When there is war, you train. Harder than the day before and wit..."

Serving in the military has nothing to do with the full understanding of that book. I served, I didn't sleep, I lived the repetitiveness that is army life, I felt the sense of duty as you do. It doesn't change the fact that this book is flat, the characters are inconsistent, and the overall feeling of it is that something is always missing. Missing, missing missing.

message 18: by Beka (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beka I enjoyed your review and your honesty but I found myself disagreeing with much of it. I was able to empathize with Ender and in fact found myself crying for him about 2/3 of the way through the book for all the crap and adult responsibilities the battle school kept piling on him. I appreciated the repetition of the drills and day to day activities that put me in his shoes. I also felt Card did a decent job explaining why Ender was the way he was through his thoughts, although I would have appreciated more time in Ender's head.
As for characterization, I would have liked to get to know Petra and Dink and a few others better, but it also shows how isolated Ender was. He wasn't able to get to know the other soldiers because he was always training and was NOT a normal kid.

message 19: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Lindeman I agree with you Lithium. I thought it was just me. I could not even finish it. I will try again someday but Ender left me cold and bored.

Syafiq Segaf Repetitive? Are you sure you're talking about Ender's Game? I can understand other complaints about the book but... "repetitive"? Really?

message 21: by Terra (new) - rated it 1 star

Terra Thanks to your review, I skimmed the second half and was relieved as I listened to the last five minutes that I had been spared any additional torture

Julien V As for the repetitions, well yeah, I found it too. The combat training sequences are similar. Just like life in the army, heh?

message 23: by Jim (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jim Hasson Brilliantly summed up. I'm with you on almost all points.

message 24: by Maria (new) - rated it 1 star

Maria Great review. I couldn't agree more with you. This has been by far one of the more tedious books I've read in my life.

message 25: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris This is hands down, the most concise, relevant, and in-depth review I've read about this book.

I almost feel sorry that you've wasted energy and time reviewing this piece of ego masturbatory pulp when you could've review something more rewarding, but at least it'll warn future new readers what they are getting themselves into, especially with the new Enders movie coming out next summer.

Amanda Paustian I'm sorry to hear you didn't like it! I haven't read it in so long that I can't remember if it's good or if I'm just nostalgically attached to it.

message 27: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian Zimmerman Finally someone who dislikes this trash as much as I did. I sent a friend request because we 2% who gave ender the 1 star it deserves should stick together.

message 28: by C.C. (last edited Jul 15, 2013 11:15PM) (new)

C.C. Alma I like your review. It's well thought out and well written. Maybe I'm saying that because I agree, especially about the lack of personality. I also had a hard time picturing all those battle games--there isn't much of a sense of place. Please excuse my self-promotion if you don't like that kind of thing, but did write a science fiction novel with very strong characterization that you may like. The title is The Earth Girl and Queen Eliza. And I'm going to take a look at the books you do like to see if there is anything I might want to read next. Thanks!

Himanshu Modi Well written review. I don't agree with it though. Interesting how your opening contrasts mine so... Completely. Gosh, how I would debate if I were on a computer and not a smartphone app right now. With the cramped keyboard at my disposal right now, all I will say is to each their own.

message 30: by Myth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Myth Well, I don't agree with you, but that's why I read your review, because I was aware on the surface that there were many weak elements. Your review is mostly about how you went into this and how disappointed you ended up. I've found that there's basically nothing about the actual book itself that can determine whether or not a person likes it, but their expectations and what they understand the book to be.

I actually found the everyday routine of his life and how his mind worked to be interesting. I will say that the characterization was kind of lacking and characterization tends to be a focus in genre fiction. This is a Sci-Fi, but it's also considered a cult classic and has a lot of literary merit. This book is very much about themes and society, which is a part of that line drawn in the sand between literature and genre fiction. I would think this book qualifies as a dystopian novel and as such is more about society than colorful characters or relationships. Card did skip out on descriptions pretty thoroughly and that did bothered me a bit.

The reading level wasn't difficult. I think it's intended to be Middle Grade to Young Adult (not the audience that should read it, but the audience that could.) Anyway, I understand what you disliked about it.

message 31: by Myth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Myth Also, I meant to mention, I think that whole second line in point 4 is a spoiler. -_-;

message 32: by M (new) - rated it 1 star

M you are sooo right....

message 33: by Eric (new) - rated it 1 star

Eric King I agree 100%. I keep hoping it will get better and if anything it keeps getting worse! Trying to make my way through it, but no promises at this point.

message 34: by R. (new) - added it

R. Travis You have fantastic taste in literature.. I wanted to see what you liked after I read this review, and while you had a few hipster and sanctioned titles on there (Slaughterhouse 5 and A Thousand Splendid Suns, for example) you had a few really brilliant additions on there, like Moab is My Washpot.

Anyway, I have to disagree with you on this one, sadly.. I kind of loved it, personally. I like that you criticized it thematically rather than on content--a common mistake you didn't make. I don't think the pacing was particularly bad or repetitive in any way that wasn't calculated--that was part of the point, I think. It needed to feel that way so it would amplify the way the pain and brainwashing of it is impressed on the people involved. Speaking as a person who (for what it's worth) has invested a great deal of time and money playing at strategy for the last 13 years, I have to say, his brilliance is plainly visible. Playing the man across from you through empathy rather than the game pieces, playing with perceived orientation in null gravity, thinking outside the box by using others or your own body parts as shields, manipulating the terms of victory, they're all very intelligent strategy, particularly for a 10 year-old.

The same people who would tell you how Sun Tzu can be applied to everyday life are the ones who would point to the Demosthenes and Locke situation as a prime example of how it can be used. All three kids use the same tools to accomplish different goals. The idea that the people who first comment publicly about things then begin to attain power is nothing new. Thomas Payne, Jonathan Swift, as well as a great deal of the social commentators today have gained tremendous followings, and could themselves accomplish a great deal in public office if they chose to. Our narrow-minded definitions of ourselves through our professional titles ("I am a writer, not a politician"), create an incredibly isolated sense of compartmentalization that prevents ourselves from visualizing doing so. It's also just the sort of imaginary boundary Ender and his ilk would see around--and they so do in a far more apparently rigidly rule-bound environment than ours. Imagine if Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens were to have run for office? Many would look upon that as a return to intelligent debate in the US, and would listen readily. Everyone remembers Hitchens' fierce stances on 9/11, and he was interviewed by many news channels at the time as an authority. He was only a writer for what was originally a women's magazine with a fashion focus. (Vanity Fair has some of the best writers in the world on staff, in my opinion.)

Where I think Scott Card does go wrong is in his devotion to the Isaac Asimov pseudo-masculine focus on power structures. Basically he writes about the power structure as immutable, which could be read as a criticism, but he admires Ender's success and is clear about it even as the ending sets in. That's where I tune out. The whole "then life went on, we colonized other worlds and tried to live all zen-like" is where I lose it. It's like he brilliantly describes a problem of all of us being drawn into the game of the everyday rat-race, push for money, success and to make ourselves into Mark Zuckerberg outliers (a Malcolm Gladwell term that is now used by news commentators and politicians everywhere--also "tipping point"), but then fails to come up with a solution so he has the main character hollowly repent and start a religion. If it feels tacked-on, that's because it was. It reminds me of John Milton, claiming to be caught up in the revolutionary spirit, and now he's supposed to repent and hate the whole thing, but the whole of Paradise Lost betrays his love for the *sexiness* of the whole thing, even while he's supposed to hate it. Hollow. Same deal. I loved Ender's Game, but the ending was pathetic. Should stop trying to do what so many SF lit books do badly and illustrate an inadequate and abbreviated solution to the whole thing. Let the narrative have a hollow ending, like Ender washing spaceship windows while Earth's forgotten him, not the point you're trying to make.

I'm not sure why I put as much energy as I did into this response. I suppose my own point that I mentioned briefly above was that art is not supposed to be pedagogy, so stop spoiling the art by trying to make it pedagogical. That's what I don't like. The writing's great, the characters have a lot of soul, actually, though it's all hidden beneath masculine stoicism--we're not supposed to cry, remember? They all betray it, sometimes openly like when Ender thanks his brother for allowing him to cry quietly so no one else can hear him, sometimes more subtly like when Alai kisses his forehead. Or all of Peter. His entire character is like a comment on masculinity.

Anyway, I've said enough. I didn't mean to be confrontational at all (can you tell I'm Canadian?), but I wanted to give a worthy response to a worthy criticism.

message 35: by Ian (new) - rated it 1 star

Ian Zimmerman This is Lithium's thread, so I hope I'm not being rude by butting in and answering before her. I think that was a well written rebuttal. I personally hated Ender's Game with a passion, but I respect that people have different opinions. If you found something in it to like then good for you.

Mp.lee Spot on. I had exactly the same feelings. I am completely mystified why this book has the adoration and respect that it does. It feels like it was written by a reasonably bright but socially outcast teenager with a chip on his shoulder. To your list of complaints I'll add the young age of the soldiers-in-training. It strains credulity with me that one could expect anything like adult thinking at such a young age. Had Ender been 12 instead of six I would have found it more realistic. The mind-numbing (yes, repetitive) military exercises were just filler for the lack of character development. The only interesting part for me was the last 10 pages or so when Ender has to acknowledge what he has done. I've been told the sequels are better but such a claim will have to be unexplored by me.

By contrast, compare Ender's Game to Dune. Now there is a real story of coming of age through military strategy...and so much more. Anyone who prefers Ender's Game to Dune does not know their SF.

message 37: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Fender VERY well said. It's reviews like this that indie authors like myself should be using to make sure we don't screw up sci-fi.

Monica Agatstein This is exactly, and I mean word for word exactly, how I felt. I thought something was wrong with me for not liking it!

BhaktiM How could you not love Ender? And the fact that he never loses is what makes the book so wonderful.

message 40: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Exactly my feeling as well. Thanks for reading it through and saving me the time and tedious page turning! It gets 0 (zero, null,zilch) stars from me.

message 41: by Ishan (new)

Ishan i am also a fan of science-fiction but couldn't make progress more than 100 pages on ender's game. Always wonder why it is hyped so much and how come such a novel go on winning hugo and nebula

message 42: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia I whish I'd read your review before wasting hours of my life on this book. I agree with you on every point!

message 43: by Es (new) - rated it 5 stars

Es Julien wrote: "I think your review is spot-on... I can't understand the cult-like following of this book. Maybe the implied conservative politics? The repressed homoerotism? I mean, compared with great SF like ht..."

I'm curious as to where you found any homoerotism in this book. Just because two people of the same sex happen to be in the same room together naked does not mean it's about either one of them wanting to have sex with one another.

BhaktiM I am so looking forward to the movie! I think Asa is a little old to be Ender, but I am still looking forward to see how they handle this.

BhaktiM I was very surprised to see O. Card has another book that will become a movie this year - Seventh Son. That was the first O. Card book that I read. He is so creepy that I kind of wish I had never found him as an author, but it's too late for that.

message 46: by Bill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Bill Hawkins Spot on, eloquent thrashing of this boring over praised book

Lindsey Lee I had similar difficulties getting into the book. I agree with almost all your comments.

Wcsteel The seventh son is by delaney not card . Cards seventh son is based shortly after the Americas revolution. Delaneys is base in a county in England that is overrun by witches Bog garts ghast

BhaktiM Wcsteel wrote: "The seventh son is by delaney not card . Cards seventh son is based shortly after the Americas revolution. Delaneys is base in a county in England that is overrun by witches Bog garts ghast"

oh, thanks for the clarification. It has been a very long time since I read this and the blurb did seem off to me.

message 50: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex It's better than you think if you rethink it its amazing if you try to blaze through it you hate it. It's better the second time

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