Martine's Reviews > Ender's Game

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
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's review
Jul 16, 08

really liked it
bookshelves: film, modern-fiction, north-american, science-fiction, psychological-drama
Read in June, 2002

Every now and then you come across a book whose prose is thoroughly unimpressive but whose premise and sheer bravado manage to suck you in nonetheless, to the point where you end up enjoying it an awful lot. Ender's Game falls into that category for me. The first few chapters feature some of the choppiest prose I've come across in a published book -- sentences so short and dull that I seriously wondered how the book had ever got published. However, the writing gradually gets better, and as for the story itself, well, it's simply compelling. It kept me up for the better part of two nights and had me doing some serious thinking afterwards. Not bad for a young-adult-cum-science-fiction novel.

Ender's Game centres on Andrew 'Ender' Wiggin, a precocious six-year-old who is selected for the inter-planetary Battle School, where children are trained to become commanders for the International Fleet (a space agency which is supposed to keep alien threats at bay). Ender's teachers suspect he is a strategic genius, so in order to nurture his talent and see what he is capable of, they subject him to an increasingly gruelling training programme in which he has to lead much older kids into mock battles. It soon becomes apparent why: the teachers believe that Ender may be the only person capable of beating the Buggers, a technologically advanced race from outer space who may or may not have evil designs on planet Earth. So they push young Ender to his very limits, only to realise much later that they may have pushed him too far. Is Ender up to the challenge? And what exactly does this challenge entail, and what does it mean in terms of right and wrong? These are just some of the questions raised in Ender's Game, a page-turner if ever I read one. While overall characterisation is shoddy (Ender himself remains a two-dimensional character, and the other characters never make it past 1.4-dimensional), there can be no doubt that Ender is a great protagonist. It's simply riveting to watch him overcome his own fears, outwit his enemies, win the respect and support of those who matter and prove himself worthy of the big task ahead of him. Reading about his game tactics is like watching a strategy book come to life, and I for one really enjoyed that experience (I guess I should be reading Machiavelli and Sun Tzu next). But Ender's Game is more than an exciting tale about a child prodigy overcoming tremendous odds to find the meaning of his life. It also deals with fairly fundamental ethical issues. Once the final battle is over, you are left with a lot of questions -- about the legitimacy of manipulation and using children as a means to an end, and about the ethics of war and colonisation. You are given an insight into how lonely life can be at the top, and how hard it can be to live with yourself after you've done something terrible (even if you were tricked into doing it). You are left feeling not just for Ender, who pays a heavy price for the games others play on him, but for his victims, who may not quite deserve the treatment they get. So what if the writing is sketchy and the characters are cardboard cut-outs? It's still a gripping read which makes some worthy points. A deserved classic, in my opinion.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Martine Oh, I'd say the book is very relevant today. The way the American government is going on is awfully reminiscent of the situation described in the book (give or take a few spaceships), which makes the ending, which questions the legitimacy of all that precedes it, very interesting indeed. Maybe we should send a few copies to the White House? Seriously, though, I applaud Card's attempt to show the story from two perspectives. I look forward to seeing him do a bit more of that in Speaker for the Dead.

Scott You summed up my thoughts concerning the book most excellently. I concur!

Irene I think that the beginning was choppy so that it could get the reader warmed up. That's just my opinion.

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